Bill Capossere

BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

A Veil of Spears: Carries the series forward in good fashion

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A Veil of Spears
by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Bradley P. Beaulieu returns to his desert setting in A Veil of Spears (2018), the third novel of THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED LANDS series. Book one for me remains the strongest, but both the sequel and now A Veil of Spears are worthy follow ups that both deepen and broaden the story and the characters. I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two novels (you really need to have done so), so fair warning that there will be spoilers for those two books ahead.

The book picks up shortly after the last with Çeda continuing her attempt to bring down the Kings of Sharakhai, which were twelve in book one (named, um, Read More

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

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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 Tangled Lands: Great concept, varied execution across four novellas

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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

The Sky is Yours: We wrestled with this literary SF novel

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

I wrestled with this review for Chandler Klang Smith’s 2018 novel The Sky is Yours from the first paragraph. I wanted to refer to it as a “zeitgeist novel.” After I wrote that, I glanced at Wikipedia and decided that, as Inigo Montoya says to the Sicilian in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, I’ve decided that The Sky is Yours is not a zeitgeist novel. It’s more self-conscious than that. It is a novel of the zeitgeist, using a future-dystopia to comment on the values, concerns and fears of modern living.

The Sky is Yours is about t... Read More

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience

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Our Senses: An Immersive Experience by Rob DeSalle

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience (2018) is, perhaps appropriately given its topic, a dense and at times perhaps overwhelming exploration of how our minds take in information and make sense of it. While I found much of it utterly fascinating, and would recommend it, I have to confess there were times I was tempted to skim and felt the book became either a bit unfocused or, on the flip side, hyperfocused.  It didn’t help — and this is clearly no fault of author Rob DeSalle — that the formatting on the Kindle got confused by insets, so that it took a moment to track just where a sentence was going. Here’s hoping that gets fixed soon.

You might have expected DeSalle to have organized the book by the six basic senses: taste, touch, smell, ... Read More

SFM: Buckell, Scalzi, Kanakia, Novakova

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“A World to Die For” by Tobias Buckell (Jan. 2018, free at Clarkesworld, Issue 136, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Be warned: “A World to Die For” can be read as a message story, because the premise involves multiple realities with greater and lesser degrees of global warming. This does not get in the way of action and adventure, a study of personality, a collection of complicated characters, wonderful gadgets and a several types of suspense, ranging from the shoot-em-up kind to the m... Read More

Tess of the Road: A tough start, a solid if meandering rest

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Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

This is the third book I’ve read by Rachel Hartman set in her fictional word. I absolutely loved the first, Seraphina, and was greatly disappointed by the second, Shadow Scale. Unfortunately, Tess of the Road (2018) falls more toward the latter than the former, making for another disappointing foray into this setting.

While set in the same world and in roughly the same timeline as the first books (it covers a lot of ground thanks to flashbacks, so there’s both overlapping and later events), and sharing as well some of the same characters in... Read More

The Dark Intercept: Doesn’t hold together

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The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller

The Dark Intercept (2017) by Julia Keller is another teen dystopia, and while it has at its core an intriguing concept, bolstered by a few well written passages, overall it feels only partially thought through, with the reader skating too far out on the thin ice of weak characterization, flimsy world-building, and poor plotting, until finally falling through.

Sixteen-year-old Violet Crowley lives (say this in Trailer Guy voice, please) in a world that has been divided into the haves of New Earth, floating above the planet in a perfect community, and the have-nots of Old Earth, stuck on the pollution-ravaged, crime-ravaged, disease-ravaged, well, just ravaged former home to humanity. Violet is not just a resident of New Earth, she’s the daughter ... Read More

City of Miracles: A perfect ending!

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bill: I think it’s going to be impossible to review City of Miracles (2017) without reference to events from Robert Jackson Bennett’s first two books in the series (City of Stairs, City of Blades). or without discussing the major precipitating event (no real pangs of guilt here; that event is also detailed in the official bookseller summary), so consider this your fair warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Bennett picks up the story years after the c... Read More

Redworld: Year One: Too many issues with plot, character, and setting

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Redworld: Year One by A. L. Collins, illustrated by Tomislav Tikulin

I really wanted to like A.L. Collins’ MG sci-fi book Redworld (2018). An inventive and independent 13-year-old girl (Belle Song) in the year 2335 arriving on a terraformed Mars with her family and a “Home Helper” intelligent robot and having to adapt to a new world, a new (and unexpected) life farming, new neighbors (including several alien ones), and a host of dangers such as water raiders and feral animal hybrids? It sounded like nothing so much as a modern-day Heinlein juvenile, say Farmer in the Sky or (more obviously) Red Planet... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SFF Anniversary Gifts (+giveaway of some lovely earrings!)

So here we are coming up on Valentine’s Day and thoughts, and media posts, turn to love. One of the ones we came across recently was that standby list of traditional anniversary gifts...

Of course, our thoughts, as they’re prone to do, turned immediately to wondering what would those gifts be like in some of our favorite fantasy/sci-fi worlds?

Sure, those early gifts would probably be pretty similar (paper for the first year, wood for the fifth, tin for the tenth), but what about the gifts for those oh-so-special anniversaries celebrating an impressively enduring love/bonding? What would be the equivalents of our culture’s silver (25th year), gold (50th), and diamond (60th)?

We’ve provided one possible list from Middle-Earth (we decided to stop at 60 despite knowing that some chara... Read More

City of Blades: Inspiring and heartbreaking

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Marion: City of Blades is the second book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s THE DIVINE CITIES series, which tells several sides of the story of a major international cultural conflict. Saypur, a civilization that has been oppressed by the Continent for centuries, rose up and subdued its oppressors by killing their gods. In the wake of the Saypuri revolution and its conquest of the Continent, all of the Continental Divinities have vanished, and magic no longer works… usually.

City of Blades, Bennett’s follow-up to City of Stairs Read More

How to Stop Time: It isn’t you; it’s me.

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How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How To Stop Time (HTST): So, do you want to, like, go out again next week or ...

ME: I’m, I’m sorry, but I don’t think, I don’t think this is going to —

HTST: Was it something I —

ME: No. No. It isn’t you; it’s me.

HTST: Not that old —

ME: No, really. Look, there are lots of nice readers out there for you. Millions.

HTST: Millions?

ME: Millions. Like, maybe even best seller millions. And book clubs. And —

HTST: Book clubs? You think?

ME: Definitely. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself a nice screenwriter either, someone who will like you for your good qualities, treat you right, and adapt you.

HTST: You’re not just saying that? Be honest with me.

ME: I’m not just saying it. I am... Read More

Starlings: A worthwhile journey into a writer’s mind

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Starlings by Jo Walton

I’m honestly not quite sure of how to review Jo Walton’s 2018 collection of short stories, Starlings. As a fiction read, it left me greatly wanting, with many of the stories (there are also poems and one play, but more on those later) feeling undeveloped, slight, and too one-note, so that most frequent reaction was “nice idea, but ...” with the “but” mostly signifying a response that really wasn’t a response. And so what’s the problem, you might be thinking. You didn’t respond to most of the stories; give it a bad review. Which is a nice idea, but ...

And here’s the thing. Each story is followed by a brief afterword explaining where the premise arose, or what Walton’s intentions were, or where it was published (or not) or how much ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Collaborative Cliché — Villains Edition!

It’s time for another Collaborative Cliché!

Villains. Here at FanLit, we love villains, especially when they are well-written, nuanced, smart characters. Often, though, villains still fall into the category of flat, stick-figure characters, or worse, the dreaded Evil Overlords. It’s boring to read, and fun to mock.

In this Collaborative Cliché column, we take on the thinly drawn, evil-overlord villain. Let’s look at every stereotypical thing the Big Bads do. We'll start you off, but please use the Comments to keep us going! Add your favorite eye-rolling dumb villain move.

One random commenter with a USA mailing address will win a book from our Stacks. 

MordorMort’s dark cloak swirled about hi... Read More

The Only Harmless Great Thing: A poetically imaginative work of social fiction

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The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing (2018) is a lyrical, often moving, and sometimes searing novella that sets itself in an alternate reality that entangles two historical events: the public electrocution of Topsy the elephant at Coney Island in 1903 and the “Radium Girls” scandal in the early 1900s. That the two events were not simultaneous as in the novella is only part of the “alternate” part of this alternate reality. More central to the plot is the fact that elephants in this world are sentient.

The plot itself, which has two time strands, is relatively simple. In the early strand, Regan, a young radium girl already dying from the radiation she’s been exposed to in her job painting watch dials, trains a young elephant, Topsy, to replace her, both of them knowing what th... Read More

Iron Gold: A fantastic return to the universe of RED RISING

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Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

I was a big fan of Pierce Brown’s RED RISING trilogy, so I was thrilled to hear he was going to continue the story with a new trio of books. And I’m happy to report that the first book in that new series, Iron Gold (2018), delivers the goods.

[Fair Warning: there will be of necessity spoilers for the first three books, so if you haven’t read those (and you should) I strongly recommend going no further in this review.]

RED RISING at its stripped-down core was the typical Downtrodden Rebels Against a Tyrannical State (DRATS!) story, though executed with atypical flair and complexity. One of the complicating factors, and one of my favorit... Read More

Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation

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Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca

In Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, Carolyn Cocca turns a sharp eye on gender (along with race and class) in the world of superheroes, looking through the lens of several female heroes in particular. These are, in order:

Wonder Woman
The women of Star Wars: Padem Amidala, Leia Organa, Jaina Solo
The X-Women (especially Jean Grey and Storm)
Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel

The structure allows a sort of best of both worlds exploration. Since Cocca moves chronologically, we get a sense of the grand sweep of change (or sadly, either the lack thereof or its glacial pace). But we also get to bore in on details thanks to the chapter-by-chapter focus on a single character, an aspect often lost in ... Read More

Hermes by George O’Connor

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Hermes by George O’Connor

Hermes (2018) is the tenth book in George O’Connor’s stellar illustrated Greek gods series, and really, at this point there’s little to say that every household, especially but not exclusively, those with children, should have these books on the shelf and just automatically add them as O’Connor comes up with them. They’re just that good.

This one opens with a former slave and his dog traveling the countryside until they stop at a cottage where a many-eyed figure is the watchman over a very fine cow tethered outside. In exchange for some food and wine, the traveler offers to tell the watchman some stories, all of which, as one might imagine from the title, deal with Hermes. Logically enough, they begin with his birth and then his first act as an in... Read More

No Time to Spare: More LeGuin is always a pleasure

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No Time to Spare by Ursula K. LeGuin

I’ve said for, well, what seems like forever now, that Ursula K. LeGuin is a national treasure. And so when she comes out with a collection drawn from her blog, I’m all in, even though normally I’d run like crazy from any such compendium. In fact, I’ve used the “sounds like a blog” line as criticism (the negative sort) of other collections of essays. And yes, there are several pieces about cats in No Time to Spare (2017), seemingly a required subject for anyone posting online. But I’ll accept the occasional cat essay if it comes stringing a bunch of other LeGuin essays along behind it.

LeGuin was inspired to begin her blog by reading Jose Saramago’s own, written when he was 85/86 and published as The Noteboo... Read More

The Year of the Geek: 365 Adventures from the Sci-Fi Universe

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The Year of the Geek by James Clarke

The Year of the Geek is a fact-a-day (sometimes more) calendar book filled with all types of sci-fi related information, frequently enhanced by or presented via a host of illustrations, charts, pictograms, and other sorts of infographics. What sort of facts? Birthdays (authors, directors, actors, fictional characters), death dates, release dates (films, books, TV shows), landmark moments, such as when The Doctor first met himself, and more. Many of the facts lead off into brief moments of exploration, either textually or graphically: which Spider-Man characters are heroes, villains or allies; which body parts were bionic on the Bionic Woman; how many King Kong movies there were, when they were released, and how they fared at the box office (the top grossing one sits atop the Empire State Building naturally), how the “kills” on Buffy the ... Read More

The Power: Simple concept, compelling read

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

One thing’s for sure, The Power (2016 in the UK, Oct 2017 in the US) demands attention. Margaret Atwood has given it her blessing and I’ll eat my hat if The Power doesn’t have its own Netflix series sometime soon. Naomi Alderman could well be the next big name in subversive, feminist fiction.

The Power asks — what would happen if all women could physically dominate men? Over five years, Alderman answers that question and the answer is explosive, bloody, wild and thought-provoking.

One day, across the globe, fifteen-year-old girls realise they have electrical power in their fingertips. For some of them it... Read More

Central Station: A wealth of ideas, a breathtaking vision

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Central Station is a thoughtful, poignant, human take on a possible future. For the most part Central Station occurs at the titular port on planet earth. This space resides in what we know today as Tel Aviv, but in the distant future it has gone through many names and many people. Everything seems to begin in earnest when Boris Chong arrives in Central Station after spending a great deal of time away — some of which on Mars. Central Station, the place, is a half-thought meeting of a variety of worlds. Central Station the book is more thoughtful than I think I know how to express, but I’ll give it a try.

Central Station occurs in the very spot where humans expanded from our first planet... Read More

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