Best weapons in fantasy

Today’s topic of discussion is rather simple. What is the coolest weapon you have ever seen grace the page of a fantasy story? I have a couple in mind I’d like to...

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The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories: A wonderful companion to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Readers’ average rating: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke The moment I finished Susanna Clarke’s wonderful first novel Jonathan Strange and...

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Romani Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Part 2

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

Patterns of the Wheel: Not the right format for this art style and subject

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Patterns of the Wheel: Coloring Art Based on Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan & Amy Romanczuk

Patterns of the Wheel is a posthumous collaboration between late author Robert Jordan, of THE WHEEL OF TIME fame, and officially licensed Wheel of Time™ artist Amy Romanczuk, who has merged phrases or dialogue from many of Jordan’s novels with pysanky, a style of Ukrainian folk art most often seen on brightly-colored Easter eggs. While marketed as an adult coloring book, the black-and-white images and quoted selections from Jordan’s novels are certainly suitable for all ages, though the designs lack the level of finesse I would expect from an officially-sanctioned pr... Read More

The Apothecary’s Curse: An original idea with too many plot elements

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The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett

The Apothecary’s Curse, by Barbara Barnett, has wonderful ideas and many interesting elements. In particular, Barnett has a unique thought about the Celtic Faerie. Unfortunately, the story can’t quite support the weight of all the ideas, and the book’s time-jumping structure creates an episodic effect that vitiates the urgency. I don’t think this one succeeds, but I love the imagination at work here.

There are at least two discrete stories in The Apothecary’s Curse. There is a Victorian metaphysical thriller, of sorts, as two men, each immortal, struggle to keep their state a secret, and one of them is imprisoned in Bedlam and tortured. There is a present-day story that wants to be a medical thriller in the style of Robin Cook or Read More

The Skin I Live In: Holy Toledo!

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The Skin I Live In directed by Pedro Almodovar

I am probably not the best person to comment on a film by the hugely popular Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Of the man's 20 or so films to date, I had only seen precisely one — his seventh, 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and that many years ago. But that film had struck me as being wildly funny and entertaining, I recall, so it was with great enthusiasm that I popped Almodovar's 18th offering, The Skin I Live In, into my DVD player the other night. Originally presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 under its Spanish appellation La Piel Que Habito, the picture, as it turns out, is just remarkable; one of those films that makes you want to start checking out/checking off all the other items in its creator's oeuvre. Very much a modern-day horror classic, the film takes a healthy dose of Alfred... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s your favorite scary book?

Coming up on Halloween, our thoughts turn to the scary, the creepy and the shivery. What’s your favorite scary book? I have about four, and for the most part they hit different notes.

One of the scariest books I’ve ever read was Stephen King’s The Shining. It was not only ghost-and-monster creepy, but the dissolution of a family was really terrifying. In a different way, because it unmoors us from reality one page at a time, Caitlin R. Keirnan’s book The Red Tree has got to be in my top five.

Then there are a couple of classics, courtesy of Shirley Jackson; We Have Always Lived in the Castle... Read More

Guns of the Dawn: Austen collides with muskets, warlocks and war-machines

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Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Guns of the Dawn, originally published in 2015 in hardback and ebook, with a paperback version due on November 1, 2016, is my favorite fantasy that I’ve read this year ... and I read a lot of fantasy.

The story begins in media res, as gentlewoman Emily Marchwic fights her first battle in muggy, oppressive swamplands, as a new conscript in the Lascanne army. There’s a brief, inconclusive battle with their enemies, the Denlanders, who are almost impossible to see in the impenetrable murk until they are upon her and her friend Elise. Emily, shocked to the core by her up-close contact with death and killing, flounders away with her unit when they retreat, leaving dead on both sides behind in the swamp.

From here we flash back three years, to when the war between the countries of Lascanne and Denland ... Read More

The Singing Bones: Haunting fairy-tale sculptures

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The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

I’m not quite sure how to review The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan. It’s not quite like anything else I’ve read, and I’m not sure I know how to review visual art in the first place. But I can certainly recommend it.

This unique book contains photographs of small sculptures by Tan, each illustrating one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Each sculpture encapsulates its respective tale in one haunting image, often enhanced by the lighting and arrangement of the photo, and accompanied by a short passage from the tale.

"Mother Trudy"

You will be familiar with some of the tales. Others, you might not be. ... Read More

Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism: Dor jam

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Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism directed by Harald Reinl

I have written elsewhere about my longtime love for redheaded Italian actress Lucianna Paluzzi, who captivated this viewer back in 1965 by dint of her portrayal of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent Fiona Volpe in the James Bond outing Thunderball. Two years later, another redheaded S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent also caught my fancy: Helga Brandt, Agent No. 11, in the Bond blowout You Only Live Twice. Brought to indelible life by German actress Karin Dor, she remains, 45 years later, one of the sexiest of the Bond "bad girls," and her death in archvillain Blofeld's piranha pool is a 007 classic. Well, despite admiring Dor's performance in this film dozens of times over the years, I have been hard pressed to see her in anything else, other than Alfred Hitchcock's 1969 film Topaz, in which she plays Juanita de Cordoba, the widow of a Cuban revolutionary ... and a ... Read More

WWWednesday; October 26, 2016

This week’s word for Wednesday I lifted entirely from a Haggard Hawks tweet: SPREZZATURA is deliberate nonchalance, or the act of making something difficult look effortless.


The Israeli Society for Fantasy and Science Fiction has announced its 2016 Geffen winners.

The Baen Memorial Contest is open for fiction about near-future space exploration. The deadline for submissions is February, 2017.

(Thanks to Locus Magazine for both items.)

Books and Writing:

This is sad news. Locus Magazine is reporting that Sheri Tepper Read More

Lost Gods: Death is not the end

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Lost Gods by Brom

If you’ve seen any buzz about author/illustrator Brom’s newest novel, Lost Gods (2016), in which the words “Dante” or “Inferno” are heavily featured, I’d advise you to read that buzz with a pinch of salt; to rely on the similarities between Lost Gods and Inferno is to neglect the breadth and depth of Brom’s creativity and imagination, and I would sorely hate to see this level of world-building and inspiration reduced to the bare-bones concept of “guy goes to Hell” when there’s so much more presented here.

Lost Gods does feature a man who travels to the netherworld, it’s true: Chet Moran, aged twenty-four, is fresh out of county lockup and trying to set his life s... Read More

Blood Is the Color of Night: Filipino Sumisipsip Sa Leeg

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The Blood Drinkers (Blood Is the Color of Night) directed by Gerardo de Leon

Though he had started his career as a medical doctor, Gerardo de Leon went on to become not only a movie director, but the most awarded director in the history of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (seven awards, in all). He helmed film projects in many different genres, but this viewer had, until recently, only been familiar with three of his pictures, all in the horror category. His 1959 effort Terror Is a Man, generally cited as being the first Filipino horror film, was an excellently done reworking of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, while the two films he directed with Eddie Romero in 1968, Read More