Marion Deeds

MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

WWWednesday: February 13, 2019

El Alamein Fountain, Sydney, Australia (courtesy of Wikipedia)



This week’s word for Wednesday is a noun. A prebuttal is an argument constructed anticipating a counter-argument. (“Some out there might say, isn’t speculative fiction just mindless escapism? Let me explain why it isn’t.”) I didn’t know this word existed but I should have because it is a perfectly logical construction.

Books and Writing:

Lit Hub strolls through one-star Amazon reviews of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; a little sad, a little entertaining.

Lisa Lucas, Director of the National Book Foundation, offers an u... Read More

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy: Diverse opinions for a story of diversity

Editor's note: BINTI was originally published in three separate novellas but has recently been released in a complete trilogy. We've combined all of our new and previous BINTI reviews in this post.

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

As Binti, a mathematically brilliant, 16 year old member of the African Himba tribe, sneaks away from her home in the dead of night, I felt almost as much anticipation as Binti herself. Binti has decided, against massive family pressure, to accept a full-ride scholarship to the renowned Oomza University on a planet named ― wait for it ― Oomza Uni. (Perhaps the university sprawls across the entire planet? Certainly it covers several cities many miles apart.) Himba tribe members are technically advanced but socially isolated from other people, and Binti’s breaking away from her tribe evidences her courage, but leaves her isolated, an outsider.
Read More

WWWednesday: February 6, 2019

The Puppy Bowl:

Captain Marvel, 2014 (Image courtesy of The Comic Book Store)



The big game was on Sunday. For anyone who missed it, this year’s Puppy Bowl trophy went to Team Ruff. The score was 59-51 against the odds-on favorite, Team Fluff. Before you ask, I have no idea how they score this thing.

Books and Writing:

If you’re a big Robert Heinlein fan this notice of a “new” novel, an alternate version of Number of the Beast, will get your attention. The story is based on a 185,000 manuscript by Heinlein, which deviates at the end from the original published work.

We all love the story of a magical book hidden inside a... Read More

SFM: Bazan, Lundy, Tidbeck, Mondal, Wilbanks

Short Fiction Monday: Our 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.



“Slow Victory” by Juanjo Bazan (free at Daily Science Fiction, May 24, 2018)

A time traveler heads back for a meeting in the woods with a young woman “hiding from the army of uninformed and ignorant men.” Bazan offers up a different take on time travel here, a more intimate, more quiet sort of tale than is often told in this sub-genre. It’s a lovely little story in how “history continues untouched,” save for within a single person’s mind. And that was enough.

An effective, efficient story that is just the right length. ~ Bill Capossere





“Counting ... Read More

Witchmark: Delightful detective tale and a sweet, magical love story

Witchmark by C.L. Polk

C.L. Polk’s debut novel, Witchmark (2018), book one in THE KINGSTON CYCLE, was a delight to read. It’s a second-world fantasy set in country a lot like Britain at a time a lot like the end of World War I, with seriously traumatized soldiers returning to Aeland after the end of the nation’s successful war with Laneer. There are some important differences. Aeland’s war was purely one of conquest, and Aeland’s world has magic.

Miles Singer was a soldier and a doctor in the war, and now he practices psychiatry at a soldiers’ hospital. He is trying to discover the root cause of a violent, horrifying delusion too many returning soldiers have, one that makes them commit violent acts against the people they love. In the opening chapter, Miles tries to save a dying man who says he was poisoned, but to Miles’s horror, the man calls Miles “star... Read More

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter: We like it

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), Theodora Goss has created something really exciting and rewarding: a novel that pays homage to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of speculative fiction which inform every standard the modern incarnation of the genre is judged by, and yet stands on its own as a twenty-first century creation.

The epigraph — “Here be monsters” — and a subsequent recorded exchange between Mary and Catherine set the scene: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a collaborative effort, though by whom and for what purpose is not immediately plain. First we are introduced to Mary Jekyll, recently orph... Read More

City of Broken Magic: Enjoyable

City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

Mirah Bolender’s debut novel, City of Broken Magic (2018), is an enjoyable book, with an interesting magical system and a main character, Laura, who matures as the story progresses. Physical descriptions of the city of Amicae, where Laura lives, and the various settings for action sequences, are nicely done. I’d recommend this book for a long, rainy afternoon, or a snow day — it’s an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

Laura Kramer is an apprentice Sweeper. Sweepers deal with the “monsters” who infest the broken or drained magical amulets everyone in the city (and all neighboring cities) use. The monsters eat magic; magic is in everything, including people, which means they eat us. Laura is the main Sweeper’s, Clae Sinclair’s, senior apprentice and his onl... Read More

WWWednesday: January 30, 2019

Exploding Star, Courtesy of NASA



A word for Wednesday; from Dictionary.com, this noun, oillionaire, is Canadian slang for a millionaire who made their wealth in the petroleum industry.

This is last column of January. Federal employees will again get pay checks for their work (or return to work if they were furloughed) and should have their back pay starting tomorrow.

How’s your 2019 going so far?

Books and Writing:

“Comp titles” (or comparative titles) are one vital element in the underrepresentation of certain groups in literature, according to some work done by the LA Review of Books. The selection of comps goes a long way to ensuring that the publishing field stays white. This is an interesting and not surprising article.

It will come a... Read More

Vigilance: A fierce satire that didn’t quite hit the mark for us

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest work, 2019’s Vigilance, is a slim (under 200 pages) but densely satirical take-down of modern American society. Set in 2030, Bennett details an America well into its decline:
There’d been a mass migration of the younger generations and immigrants out of America throughout the 2020s, leaving the nation saddled with an older generation that couldn’t work but was entitled to steadily advancing medical technology that kept them all alive for far longer than any economist had ever predicted. The elderly population ate up whatever national budgets remained like locusts devouring corn ... America stopped doing everything. Except television.
And the most popular show on television? Vigilance — a reality game show born after the ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Collaborative Cliché — YA Dystopian Adventure Edition!

It’s time for another Collaborative Cliché!

It seems like YA dystopian adventure stories may have run their course, and that’s a shame because they had so much to offer. There was the powerful, special teen. There were angsty love triangles, powerless parents, corrupt political systems and evil, cruel leaders. There was some vague catastrophe in the past, and so on. Usually there’s a big wall somewhere.

Well, the stories may have ebbed to a trickle but that doesn’t mean we can’t play with the tropes. I’ll start us off. Then it’s your turn! Add to the story in the Comments. You can come back and add as many passages as you like. One commenter with a USA mailing address will get to choose a book from our Stacks.



... Read More

WWWednesday: January 23, 2019

A word for Wednesday: Mopsical (adjective), meaning  mopey, spoiled or petulant. The word may have literally meant “mopey-eyed” (or shortsighted) originally.

Books and Writing:

Rackham imagines Ligeia



Mary Robinette Kowal announced she is running for SWFA President. Here is her announcement and her platform. John Scalzi has already written a ringing endorsement.

Jonathan Swift said he wished to “vex the world, rather than divert it,” with his 1726 satire Read More

WWWednesday: January 16, 2019

Awards:

The 2019 Hugo nomination window is now open. Members of the 2018 WorldCon or the 2019 Dublin WorldCon may nominate. Thanks to Locus.

Serafina, (c) 2019, 2005 Jessica Joslin



Books and Writing:

Sherilyn Kenyon has accused her ex-husband Lawrence Kenyon and a woman named Kerrie Plumb of poisoning her over several years. This story would be fascinating if it weren’t so frightening. In other social media, Kenyon has Read More

WWWednesday: January 9, 2019

Awards:

Nnedi Okorafor was named 2018’s Person of the Year by the Society for Africans in Diaspora. Thanks to File 770.

Books and Writing:

The anthology Unfettered III directs the proceeds to writers needing health care. File 770’s article talks about the history of great stories for a good cause.

On The Mary Sue, Princess Weekes talks about Riri Williams, whose superhero name is Ironheart. She was a new one for me.

Prince I...

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The Consuming Fire: A pure delight

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

In The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi introduced us to an interstellar empire called The Interdependency, a collection of far-flung human habitats connected by a quantum event called the Flow. The Interdependency is ruled by an Emperox, and a new Emperox, one who never considered herself in the line of succession and never wanted the role, had just been crowned. At this time, Grayland II, as she named herself, discovered that the Flow was starting to collapse. There was powerful mathematical and empirical evidence that the collapses or shifts in the Flow would continue, cutting off planets from one another for millennia.

Book two of THE INTERDEPENDENCY, The Consuming Fire Read More

Wild Seed: Two African immortals battle for supremacy in early America

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Wild Seed (1980) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 5-book PATTERNIST series, but comes first in chronology. The next books, by internal chronology, are Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), and Patternmaster (1976). Butler was later unsatisfied with Survivor (1978) and elected to not have it reprinted, so I will focus on the main four volumes. Wild Seed is an origin story set well before later books and can stand on its own. It’s one of those books whose basic plot could be described in just a few paragraphs, but the themes it explores are deep, challenging, and thought-provoki... Read More

A Conjuring of Light: A few issues, but still a nice close to a strong trilogy

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (2017) brings V.E. Schwab’s multi-world trilogy to a close while leaving plenty of room for future stories in the SHADES OF MAGIC universe. We (Bill and Marion) both read it, and we share their thoughts about the third book below. This review may contain light spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows.

A Gathering of Shadows ended on a cliffhanger. In the opening chapter of A Conjuring of Light, Delilah Bird has entered the world of White London to save Kell, who has fought off posse... Read More

Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

Reposting to include Marion's review of the new SYFY channel adaptation of Nightflyers. You can find it below our reviews of the novella.

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers was first published in 1980, won the Locus Award for best novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was made into an unsuccessful film in 1987. It’s recently been on people’s radars due to the upcoming SYFY series based on the novella. You can purchase it in several new (2018) formats including an illustrated edition, a story collection, and an audio version. I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by a... Read More

WWWednesday: December 26, 2018

This will be the final column of 2018. A safe and happy New Year's Day to everyone who observes it.

Books and Writing:

Academy Award winner Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions is accepting screenplay submissions.

In the solving-the-problem-we-didn’t-know-we-had category, Tor.com offers an essay on how to make beer on a generation ship.

Sarah Gailey writes about seven books that helped her make it through a hard year. What I liked about this essay is that she tells us when and where she read each book.

Read More

WWWednesday: December 19, 2018

Christmas Horse by Vladislav Erko (c) Vladislav Erko



Awards:

This year’s Parsec Awards, for excellence in speculative fiction podcasts, were announced on December 17.

Obituary:

She didn’t work much in genre unless you consider the film Big conventional fantasy (since it contains magic), but Penny Marshall, who also directed A League of Their Own and Awakenings, died on December 18. The cause of death is given as complications from diabetes.

Books and Writing:

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Abbott: Elder gods and tough reporters in 1970s Detroit

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivela

BOOM! Studios has released the trade edition of the first series of the period dark fantasy Abbott (2018), words by Saladin Ahmed and art by Sami Kivela. Set in 1972, the story follows Elena Abbott, a reporter for the Detroit Daily. Abbott may not be the paper’s only woman reporter, but she is probably its only Black reporter and definitely the only Black woman reporter. Currently, she is in trouble with the paper’s owners for her accurate expose of the police murder of a Black teenager. She is sent to cover the mutilation of a police horse. To further punish her for her stand against police lawlessness, the paper has taken away her photographer and given Abbott a camera. This is a status hit that her white male competitors immediately comment on.

To ... Read More

WWWednesday: December 12, 2018

Quite a few video clips this week! 

Books and Writing:

NPR reviews the graphic novel Parallel Lines by Oliver Schrauwen.

Snow Queen by Vladislav Erko (c) Vladislav Erko



 

Sarahmay Wilkinson shares the pleasure, and process, of developing a book cover for a debut writer.

Scribner and Sons will retire its Touchstone imprint, and Susan Moldow, the president of Touchstone, will retire, both at the end of the year. Touchstone’s genre properties will move to Atria and Galaxy.

Have... Read More

WWWednesday: December 5, 2018

A Joyous Hanukkah to all those who observe.

A Joyous Festival of Lights.



Conventions:

In addition to electing new officers Arisia has banned some people and restricted the involvement of others, in the wake of the report of their mishandling of a sexual assault complaint.

Scotland, known already for its Fringe Festival, will hold its first speculative fiction/horror fiction literary festival.

Afua Richardson will be a featured artist at WorldCon in Dublin, Ireland in 2019.
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A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

Marion: We never know the name of our first-person narrator in Alexandra Rowland’s 2018 novel A Conspiracy of Truths. People call him Chant, but that is his vocation, not a name (he abandoned his name when he became a Chant). Chants gather stories and retell them. They go from place to place pursuing their craft, and in the isolated and insular country of Nuryevet, Chants offends the wrong people, and is put on trial for witchcraft.

As soon as he opens his mouth to defend himself, Chant makes things worse, and he’s imprisoned and facing a death sentence. His publicly appointed advocate, Consanza, is a reluctant helper at best, and certainly not an ally. Worse, Chant has come to the attention of several of the Primes, the elected rules of Nuryevet — in particular, the Queen of Pattern (think CIA). He uses the only tool ava... Read More

WWWednesday: November 21, 2018

Jovian Close Encounter. Image Courtesy of NASA



Those of you in the USA, or who observe the holiday, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Everyone else, have a great day tomorrow!

There will be no column next week. I’ll be back on December 5, 2018.

Books and Writing:

Unbound Worlds will no longer be providing original material as a blog, although features may be incorporated into other venues within Penguin Random House.

Last week Jonathan Franzen posted 10 Rules for Writing. They might be useful for emerging writers; they were definitely useful for established writers of all genres (but particularly speculative fiction) who had fun with them –and Read More

The People’s Republic of Everything: An experimental collection

The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

I don’t know if I simply wasn’t in the right mood for Nick Mamatas’ short-story collection The People’s Republic of Everything (2018), or if I’m not the right audience for his preferred themes and overall style, but this book and I just could not mesh.

There was one story, “Tom Silex, Spirit-Smasher,” which gripped my attention and had everything I look for in short fiction. The story focuses on Rosa Martinez, whose elderly grandmother might — through quirks of legality regarding her first marriage and the question of ownership of her first husband’s pulp publications — own the rights to a series of stories revolving around psychopomp Tom Silex. The character work is strong, the plot is laser-focused, and Mamatas’ ideas about family and the... Read More

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