Justin chats with fantasy artist Chris McGrath

Joining us today is renowned artist Chris McGrath. Chris is responsible for some the best cover art in fantasy today. He’s done covers for Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie,...

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The Rediscovery of Man: The strangest future mythology you’ll ever read

Readers’ average rating: The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith The universe that Cordwainer Smith created has captured the imagination of many SF fans and authors thanks to...

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Exploration Blues

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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Recent Posts

Sunday Status Update: March 18, 2018

Our reviewers have a few books on the burner this week!

Bill: This week I read in order of preference:

A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu, a strong third book in an excellent series.
I, Mammal by Liam Drew, a fascinating look at how mammalian traits evolved into their present form
The Tangled lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell, a sequential series of four novellas in a shared world. I liked Bacigalupi’s better than Buckell’s, but overall enjoyed the world and the sharp metaphor that underpins it
White Sand Volume 2, second in a graphic series by Brandon Sanderson that has mostly disappointed to this point in both story and artwork
Dayfall by Michael David Ares, a debut I gave 100 pages to ... Read More

The Coincidence Makers: Weaving an elaborate web

Readers’ average rating:

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

Behind the scenes of our lives, pulling the strings for the benefit of humanity, are the people assigned as “coincidence makers,” arranging the events that need to happen in people's lives, both on a personal and larger scale. It may be making a particular love connection by arranging that two people meet at the right time, or taking steps to help an accountant find his true work in being a poet, or ensuring that an assassin is pointed in the right path to later do society a larger good. Coincidence makers work for a hidden organization that supervises and directs their generally benevolent efforts, along with those of imaginary friends, dream weavers, luck distributors and other useful employees, endowing them with supernatural powers, while insisting on compliance with a plethora of bureaucratic rules and restrictions.

Guy, Emily, and Eric are all... Read More

Dayfall: Did Not Finish (couldn’t get past the writing)

Readers’ average rating:

Dayfall by Michael David Ares

Dayfall (2018) is set in a near-future after a short nuclear war between India and Pakistan created a partial nuclear winter, casting part of the world, including New York City, into perpetual darkness. Crime has risen and Jon Phillips, a PA cop who takes own a serial killer early in the book is sent to deal with another one in the city known as the Dayfall Killer. Complicating things is the immanent return of the sun (the titular “dayfall”) and predictions of chaos and panic (think Asimov and Silverberg’s Nightfall, but reversed).

As usual with my DNFs (Did Not Finish), I’ll be brief as I don’t ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Our favorite SFF drinking establishments

Last year, for our Thoughtful Thursday St. Patrick’s Day Version I noted how the day always sees me browsing through one of my favorite Irish exports: the poetry of William Butler Yeats.

For this year’s post, I’m turning to another beloved aspect of Irish culture: the pub (which you might think couldn’t be exported, but you’d be wrong it turns out).

My best memories of Ireland are nights spent in pubs filled with and fueled by fiddle, flute and Guinness; banjo, bodhran and Guinness; pipe, tin whistle and Guinness; reels and jigs and songs and Guinness. Did I mention they have Guinness? (and no, it doesn’t travel well...).

It’s hard for me to imagine a place better than the pubs of Doolin, but that is... Read More

The Android’s Dream: More like The Fifth Element than Bladerunner

Readers’ average rating:  

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

The Android’s Dream (2006) is one of John Scalzi’s earlier books, and a stand-alone rather than part of a series, so I couldn’t resist given the obvious Philip K. Dick reference in the title. I decided to go into this one without knowing anything about the plot or reading any reviews at all. I know Scalzi’s humor and style from the OLD MAN’S WAR series, Redshirts and Lock In, and I love the audio narration of Wil Wheaton, so I figured I’d give it a try. I was also surp... Read More

WWWednesday; March 14, 2018

This week’s column will focus mostly on FOGCon, held in walnut Creek, California. I’ve included a few other tidbits first though.

Steampunk hats in the FOGCon dealers room.

Books and Writing:

Lit Hub and VanderMeer on writing tips.

Robert Jackson Bennett writes about the need to bring an analytical mind to the books, stories and movies you love. (Bennett commented on Twitter that he didn’t think Erik Killmonger in Black Panther was a well-developed villain, and I’m wondering if that statement and the resulting... Read More

I See By My Outfit: From New York to San Francisco by Scooter

Readers’ average rating: 

I See By My Outfit by Peter S. Beagle

Published in 1965, Peter S. Beagle’s I See By My Outfit is an American motorscooter travelogue. Beagle and his friend, Phil, ride from New York to St. Louis and then head west to San Francisco.

I was often struck by how different the world was in the 1960s. In many ways, the absence of mass media and the Internet makes America seem smaller, like you truly could find people who would wonder about the mysteries of New York City. Beagle more than once mentions that cops especially monitor them because they look like two bearded menaces. To be honest, I often wondered if he was exaggerating these claims, but perhaps my view of people who ride scooters cross country has been unduly influenced by the movie Read More

The Tangled Lands: Great concept, varied execution across four novellas

Readers’ average rating: 

The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi & Tobias S. Buckell 

The Tangled Lands is a shared-world collection of four novellas, two each written by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell. The setting is the faded remains of the once-great Jhandpara Empire, whose glory had relied on wondrously powerful magic. The dying remnants of once-glorious empires litter the fantasy canon (think the faded glory of Gondor —or Numenor before Gondor — or the seedy world of Lankhmar), but in The Tangled Lands, the old trope is given new life thanks to the sharp ecological / environmental metaphor that lies at its core.

The Jhandapra Empire had once been a grandly magnif... Read More

SFM: Pinsker, Takács, Murray, Brazee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week we begin focusing on the 2017 Nebula award nominees in the short fiction categories.

Wind Will Rove by Sarah Pinsker (2017, originally published in Asimov’s, Sept-Oct 2017 issue; free PDF available at the author’s website). 2017 Nebula nominee (novelette)

Rosie, the 55 year old narrator, is a history teacher on board a generation ship that has been voyaging through space for the better part of a hundred years, and will be traveling for many more years. She’s also an accomplished fiddler, part of a band of fiddlers, guitarists, mandolinists and banjo players that plays weekly at the OldTime gathering... Read More

All the Light We Cannot See: Science, magic and morality

Readers’ average rating:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See (2014) opens in the basement of a hotel in the port city of Saint-Malo in occupied France, 1944. The city is being bombed. Eighteen-year-old Nazi soldier Werner Pfennig is trapped below tonnes of rubble, his chances of survival increasingly slim, whilst across town, a blind French girl Marie-Laure is hiding in her attic. The pair is bound by a curiosity in natural science, years of surreptitious radio broadcasts, and a diamond that may bestow immortality upon its holder. Neither of them knows it yet. What follows is the tale of a boy who joins the Nazi regime and a girl who tries to evade it, and the series of events that will set their paths hurtling towards one another.

After these opening scenes, the story rewinds to 1934: Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are orphans in the German mini... Read More