Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Boneshaker: The Movie!

Holy shit, y'all. 

So, you know Boneshaker, that fantastic novel from Cherie Priest which featured an alternate America where the Civil War stretched into the 1880's and had a steampunk flair to it? 

If your answer to that question is "no", then go read the book! 

If your answer is "hell yeah!", then you may be as excited as I am (though not as excited as Cherie) that the film rights to Boneshaker has been sold

A huge congratulations go out to Cherie Priest.  I've been a fan of Priest's work for a while now and I am absolutely thrilled at her continued success in general and this sale in particular.  Good on her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brain Pickings: My New Favorite Everything

Holy crap, people.  I don't know if I'm the last person on Earth to discover this, but thanks to the Magic of the Internet* I now know of Brain Pickings, a website of sheer awesomeness and the work of Maria Popova.

*(at this time the role of The Internet will be played by Tobias Buckell on Twitter)

About Brain Pickings:

Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.

Brain Pickings is your LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces across art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology. Pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful — a modest, curiosity-driven exercise in vision- and mind-expansion. Please enjoy.

Or, as I described it elsewhere, Brain Pickings is a website which compiles all the coolest smart shit that I never would have known about, and then TELLS ME ABOUT IT!

For example, I want to know more about The Physics Book, color theory, and this.  And everything.

So much of what I read here pushes me into another digression, to another post, and to another fascinating subject.  It's all stuff that I didn't know I was interested in.  Until I was.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Six: Table of Contents

Jonathan Strahan has announced the Table of Contents for the sixth volume in his consistently excellent survey of the Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. 

Introduction, Jonathan Strahan
The Case of Death and Honey, Neil Gaiman, (A Study in Sherlock)
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, E. Lily Yu, (Clarkesworld, 4/11)
Tidal Forces, Caitlín R Kiernan, (Eclipse Four)
Younger Women, Karen Joy Fowler, (Subterranean, Summer 2011)
White Lines on a Green Field , Catherynne M. Valente, (Subterranean, Fall 2011)
All That Touches The Air, An Owomoyela, (Lightspeed Magazine, 4/11)
What We Found, Geoff Ryman, (F&SF, 9-10/11)
The Server and the Dragon, Hannu Rajaniemi, (Engineering Infinity)
The Choice, Paul McAuley, (Asimov‘s, 1/11)
Malak, Peter Watts, (Engineering Infinity)
Old Habits, Nalo Hopkinson, (Eclipse Four)
A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong, K. J. Parker, (Subterranean, Winter 2011. )
Valley of the Girls, Kelly Link, (Subterranean, Spring 2011)
Brave Little Toaster, Cory Doctorow, (TRSF)
The Dala Horse, Michael Swanwick, (, 7/11)
The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece, M Rickert, (F&SF, 9-10/11)
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu, (F&SF, March/April 2011)
Steam Girl, Dylan Horrocks, (Steampunk!)
After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh, (After the Apocalypse)
Underbridge, Peter S. Beagle, (Naked City)
Relic, Jeffrey Ford, (The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities)
The Invasion of Venus, Stephen Baxter, (Engineering Infinity)
Woman Leaves Room, Robert Reed, (Lightspeed Magazine, 3/11)
Restoration, Robert Shearman, (Everyone’s Just So So Special)
The Onset of a Paranormal Romance, Bruce Sterling, (Flurb, Fall-Winter 2011)
Catastrophic Disruption of the Head, Margo Lanagan, (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Vol. 1)
The Last Ride of the Glory Girls, Libba Bray, (Steampunk!)
The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book) , Nnedi Okorafor, (Clarkesworld, 3/11)
Digging, Ian McDonald, (Life on Mars)
The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson, (Asimov’s, 10-11/11)
Goodnight Moons, Ellen Klages, (Life on Mars)

In an interesting twist for me, I haven't read a single story collected here - even though a number of them are available online.  That's what happens when a fellow is away for a number of months.  As such, I am doubly looking forward to this volume. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Yellow Guys

Yellow guys do not just happen.  Yellow guys are not in my life.  Yellow guys do not just emerge out of thin air.  Yellow guys are in the movies.  Yellow guys are not real.  Yellow guys are for Chernobyl, not Clarence.  Why don't I have a yellow suit?  I do not have a yellow suit.  I quite clearly need a yellow suit.

This is a paragraph from very early on in Anne Ursu's first novel, Spilling Clarence.  I want to quote pages and pages of it,  but I love this paragraph the most.  I love the repetition (as I do).  I love how that repetition builds a sort of quasi-calm terror. 

Excuse me, I must continue reading.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes away, gone unansweréd.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together?
Leaving Weyrs to wind and weather?
Setting heardbeasts free of tether?
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?
Have they flown to some new Weyr
Where cruel Thread some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh, why, the empty Weyr?

-"The Question Song", Dragonflight

Anne McCaffrey passed away yesterday.  My childhood is sad. 

I started this paragraph four times, but I can't quite come up with the words to describe just how influential Anne McCaffrey was in my early reading of speculative fiction.  The Dragonriders of Pern was a seminal series in my life.  McCaffrey's blending of what initially seemed to be a fantasy series with a growing amount of science fiction was fascinating.  But, just as much, I loved the three Crystal Singer novels and wished she would write more - even though the story there was complete.  I just wanted more.  So often, that's what McCaffrey left her readers: wanting more of a damn good story. 

Anne McCaffrey was 85 when she died

Others will write about Anne McCaffrey with greater eloquence than what I am able to do.  There will be tributes and memorials and remembrances.  There should be.  McCaffrey was one of the legends of the genre.  Her fiction was what introduced so many readers to science fiction and instilled a lifelong love of the genre.

From io9:
Anne McCaffrey wasn't just the inventor of Pern, the world where a whole society is based on dragon-riding. She was also an incredibly influential author who helped transform the way science fiction and fantasy authors wrote about women, and the way all of us thought about bodies and selfhood. She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award, as well as a Grand Master of science fiction.

I don't know if it is really possible to overstate McCaffrey's importance in science fiction, to the readers, to the writers, to the genre as a whole.  To me. 

These last few hours I have been filled with a profound sadness at the world's loss of Anne McCaffrey.  While there is no taking away the experience of reading McCaffrey for the first time and for the adventures I had with her stories, I mourn the loss of the one who introduced me to Pern and Ballybran, to Lessa, Menolly, and Killashandra Ree. 

Goodnight, Anne McCaffrey.  Thank you for the stories and for enriching my childhood. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kitty's Big Trouble, by Carrie Vaughn

I want to catch up on some of the books I've read during the last four months. I won't be able to write in depth about most of these books because it's been too long. This may be more of a series where I talk about what I think about when I think about these books. If that makes sense.

This is the third in that series of posts.

I read Kitty's Big Trouble back in July. I've been reading Carrie Vaughn for the last five years and Vaughn has maintained my interest and excitement from the first book. Kitty's Big Trouble is the ninth novel in the series and continues Vaughn's expansion of the scope of Kitty's world.

Kitty's Big Trouble opens with Kitty's belief that William Tecumseh Sherman was really a werewolf and her investigation into that, but it extends into San Francisco to get deeper into the looming war with Roman and is minions. Vaughn explores the depth of what Kitty (and the reader) knows of the supernatural in this world.

After all these months, what I most want to convey about Kitty's Big Trouble is that there is no drop in quality in this ninth Kitty Norville novel. Vaughn continues to deliver a fast paced, entertaining story which builds what the reader knows of the world while not neglecting the ever developing characterization of all the recurring characters.

When I stop to think about it, Kitty's Big Trouble reads as an episode in a television series. The novel itself is a singular episode which tells a particular story and has a beginning, middle, and end. Carrie Vaughn puts the story first and doesn't fail to tell a good one. But, the novel also succeeds in the context of the larger Kitty Norville series. Kitty Norville is not a static character, but rather develops based on experience. The Kitty readers met back in Kitty and the Midnight Hour is not the same Kitty in these more recent novels, though the journey is clear. Bit by bit, Carrie Vaughn explores this world which seems so similar to our own, if not for the presence of the supernatural. Kitty, like the readers, have only scratched the surface of what all is out there. This is the heart of the sense of discovery in the Kitty Norville series. Through the “Adventure of the Week” stories, Vaughn works the larger thematic, character, and overall series arcs to deliver a multi-layered experience.

Or: It's just good, y'all.

Kitty Steals the show is due out in Spring 2012.

Previous Reviews
Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Kitty Goes to Washington
Kitty Takes a Holiday
Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
Kitty Raises Hell
Kitty's House of Horrors
Kitty Goes to War

Monday, November 14, 2011


So, I was looking for some new comics to put on my reading list and I happened across this post on  It's not where I normally would have thought to check, but I'll be damned if there's not some good looking stuff on that page. 

A number of books haven't been collected yet and some are just beginning (Xenoholics, anyone?), but what caught my eye was something called Spaceman. 

Spaceman is written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Eduardo Risso.  That's all I really needed to know.  You should know Azzarello from the hella ambitious 100 Bullets, or from a number of other comics, but really - 100 Bullets. 

The AV Club has a very recent interview with Azzarello.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reading: Kelly Barnhill and Anne Ursu

I went to a reading today.  It's not something I do very often, but each time I do I am reminded that I really should do this more often. 

Kelly Barnhill and Anne Ursu were reading at The Loft.  I've known Kelly for a few years now and I've enjoyed her short fiction for just as long, but Anne Ursu was new to me.  Like, never heard of her before new.  But, thanks to the magic of the internet (and Kelly raving about her on Facebook), I was intrigued about the other half of the reading.

Kelly read from her debut novel The Mostly True Story of Jack.  I've heard Kelly read before, but never from her novel (it did just come out this year, after all).  Friggin delightful.  If the rest of the book is as good as what she read, I'm in for a treat.  But then, I figured as much. 

Speaking of being in for a treat...

Anne Ursu. 

I had never heard of Anne Ursu before.  I've heard of her now. 

Ursu was funny, charming, and self deprecating all at the same time.  That's before she started reading from her latest novel, Breadcrumbs.  Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen", the portions of Breadcrumbs Ursu read stoked my interest in checking out the rest of the book (and Ursu's other novels, for that matter).  Unlike Kelly's book, I don't already own a copy of Breadcrumbs.  That would be silly.  I hadn't heard of Ursu before.  But, it shall be read. 

Neither Kelly Barnhill nor Anne Ursu had to use their AK.  Today was a good day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

New Brin!

A big thank you to Adam Whitehead for pointing out that David Brin has a new novel due out in 2012.  I haven't read Brin in years, nor has he published a novel in almost a decade.  It's high time both change.

Whitehead reports the cover blurb is as follows:

Bestselling, award-winning futurist David Brin returns to globe-spanning, high concept SF.

As he did in his New York Times bestselling novel Earth, David Brin takes on the rapidly accelerating rate of change in technology in a very human way.

Telepresence. The neural link world wide web, where a flash crowd can gather in an instant if something interesting is happening. We see it today--one man in Pakistan live-tweets the assault on Osama bin Laden, and the whole world turns to watch. A revolution in Egypt is coordinated online.

Into the maelstrom of world-wide shared experience drops a game-changer. An alien artifact is plucked from Earth's orbit; an artifact that wants to communicate. News leaks out fast, and the world reacts as it always does: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence.

Existence is packed with tension, with characters we care about in danger that seems unstoppable. It is a novel brimming with ideas about the future, and how humanity will--must--adapt to it. This is a big book from David Brin, and everyone is going to be talking about it.

Want. To. Read.

Oh, and it seems Brin has a short story in Lightspeed titled "Bubbles".  I'll go read that, too.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2011

Via Rose Fox at Genreville

Publisher's Weekly has named its Best Books of 2011.  Below is a selection, but head on over to PW to see all the lists.  Looks like an interesting list of stuff I should like to read.

Zoo City, by Lauren Buekes
Triptych, by J. M. Frey
Unpossible, by Daryl Gregory
Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Vol. 1, by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Erekos by A.M. Tuomala

Top Ten Overall
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Devil All the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock
State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Catherine the Great, by Robert K. Massie
There but for the, by Ali Smith
Hemingway's Boat, by Paul Hendrickson
One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina
Arguably: Essays, by Christopher Hitchens

I haven't read any of these.  I'm a huge fan of Ann Patchett's work and I've been following Eugenides since The Virgin Suicides.  I have no clue how I didn't know he had a new novel out.  Also, Daryl Gregory tends to be fantastic.  I haven't read his new novel OR this new collection.  Sigh.  So much to read.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Outback Stars, by Sandra McDonald

I want to catch up on some of the books I've read during the last four months. I won't be able to write in depth about most of these books because it's been too long. This may be more of a series where I talk about what I think about when I think about these books. If that makes sense.

First up was David Gemmell's Legend.

Next up is The Outback Stars, by Sandra McDonald. I read this at the end of September.

Sandra McDonald described The Outback Stars and its two sequels as “sf military romances” and, well, fair enough. That aspect is certainly present in The Outback Stars. The more I think about that description, the better it fits. The Outback Stars is all three, with no one part of that overwhelming the others.

From the back cover:

Lieutentant Jodenny Scott is a Hero. She has the medals to prove it – and the scars.

She's cooling her heels on Kookaburra, recovering from the fiery loss of her last ship, the Yangtze, and she's bored – so bored, in fact, that she takes a berth on the next ship out. That's a mistake. The Aral Sea isn't anyone's idea of a get-well tour.

Jodenny's handed a division full of misfits, incompetents, and criminals. She thinks she can handle it. She's wrong. Aral Sea isn't a happy ship. And it's about to get a lot unhappier.

What I think about when I think about The Outback Stars is the interpersonal drama of The Aral Sea, Jodenny's struggle to bring a sense of military discipline and decorum back to her new unit and how she is undermined by others who should be leaders. McDonald goes much deeper than that, in the end, but the day to day struggle of Lt Scott was the core of what worked best for me. McDonald herself is a former Navy officer and that working knowledge of the day to day life of a junior officer comes through in her writing. She isn't writing dry military minutiae, either. There is real conflict that is core to the story being told in the novel. It works.

There really isn't a weak aspect of the novel. The SF, military, and romantic elements of The Outback Stars all come together to tell a singular story which I really didn't want to end. Fantastic novel and one which I wish I didn't wait so long to read. The Outback Stars was one of those novels that was on my list of books I'll get to “sometime soon”. Sometime soon became several years. Now I only need not to wait so long to read the sequel. Very good stuff here.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Legend, by David Gemmell

I want to catch up on some of the books I've read during the last four months. I won't be able to write in depth about most of these books because it's been too long. This may be more of a series where I talk about what I think about when I think about these books. If that makes sense.

First up is a book that I read in mid-September: Legend, by David Gemmell

People have tried to get me to pick up Legend for years now. Every few months there would be a comment here insisting that I give the book a shot because I am sure to love it. We'll see. I might not have picked it up but I was in a situation where the only real access I had to books was a rare trip to a Half Priced Books and hope they have something decent. The result of one of those trips included Legend. Without much else to read and with the novel priced at $3, why not?

Originally published in 1984, Legend is a specific type of epic fantasy: which is to say, the ultra-heroic type where the hero is a hero and always does what is right and is capable of great feats. When I wrote about James Barclay's Chronicles of the Raven trilogy, I mentioned that I considered the Raven novels to be something of a bridge between quest fantasies of the 80's / 90's and the modern quest fantasies. Though I didn't realize it at the time, Legend is the beginning of that conversation of how that epic fantasy storytelling would shift.

Had Gemmell written about “Druss the Legend” earlier in the character's life, we would have been given a story of heroic feats of a young man at the height of his powers. There would have been a sense of obviousness in the story. Where Gemmell begins to twist things is that Druss here is an old man. Druss is something of a Clint Eastwood type character. You know he can kick the ass of men half his age, but you also know that people are going to want to test him even as they whisper about his legend. That's Druss and that's a major facet of Legend.

Having a somewhat “elderly” warrior means that there will always be a question on whether Druss's body will hold up to he demands of it and therein lies the tension. There's also a siege defending against vastly superior forces and the way Gemmell closes the novel is...interesting, but at its heart, Legend is heroic epic fantasy where things are a little too simple, too pat, and in many cases, too obvious. On the other hand, Legend does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.

There is a place for this type of fantasy. Certainly there is a market for it, and the David Gemmell Legend Award celebrates epic fantasy and Gemmell's legacy. I'm just not sure this is what I want to read on a regular basis.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Elizabeth Bear story and interview

There's a double shot of Elizabeth Bear goodness over at Apex Magazine.  I'm off my game because this news is a whole day old!  I don't know what's wrong with me.

First, they've got an interview with Bear.  It's about stuff. 

Second is a brand spanking new short story titled "The Leavings of the Wolf."  I must read this when I'm not fixing to fall asleep. 

While you're there, Apex also has a new story from Catherynne Valente

You're welcome. 

Weird Fiction Review

 From the press release, an interesting blog / magazine emerges:

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR WEIRD? Your Non-Denominational Source for The Weird launched today, a website devoted to The Weird and created by Luis Rodrigues. The project is the brainchild of editing-writing team Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. Hugo Award-winner Ann VanderMeer until recently edited Weird Tales Magazine and has co-edited several anthologies with her husband. Jeff’s last novel, Finch, was a finalist for the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award. Together they edited the just-released The Weird: A Compendium of Strange & Dark Stories (Atlantic/Corvus), a 750,000-word, 100-year retrospective of weird fiction.

The site kicks off today with the following features:

---Exclusive interview with Neil Gaiman about weird fiction:

---First episode of exclusive “Reading The Weird” webcomic by Leah Thomas:

---Translation of Thomas Owen’s short story “Kavar the Rat” by Edward Gauvin:

---The full Table of Contents for The Weird compendium, with notes:

---Weird Gallery, Featuring the art of New Orleans artist Myrtle Von Damitz III:

Come back later this week and next for: “Weirdly Epic: A Century of First Lines,” exclusive interviews with Kelly Link and Thomas Ligotti, a feature on artist/writer Alfred Kubin, Kafkaesque entertainments, China Mieville’s “AFTERWEIRD: The Efficacy of a Worm-eaten Dictionary,” and a feature on classic Weird Tales women writers. An ongoing “101 Weird Writers” feature will also begin next week. will initially focus on features related to The Weird compendium, but its primary mission over time will be to serve as an ongo­ing explo­ration into all facets of the weird, in all of its many forms — a kind of “non-denominational” approach that appre­ci­ates Love­craft but also writers like Franz Kafka, Angela Carter, and Shirley Jack­son – along with the next gen­er­a­tion of weird writ­ers and inter­na­tional weird. Writer Angela Slatter serves as the managing editor.