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.

Coco Butternut: A brisk “Texas Weird” adventure by the master

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Coco Butternut by Joe R. Lansdale

Coco Butternut, which came out in January 2017, is a short HAP AND LEONARD novella written by the inimitable Joe R. Lansdale. You may already have read some of these East-Texas, sort-of-detective stories, or seen episodes of the television show on Sundance. While Coco Butternut has no supernatural elements at all that I can spot, it is a fast-paced, enjoyable read with perfectly timed banter, strange and wonderful characters, and perfect, quirky descriptions of the landscape and countryside.

I don’t believe there is a sub-genre called “Texas Weird,” but if there were, Lansdale would own it. He owns it here with a story that kicks off in bizarre-mode from the first sentence. A man who runs a... Read More

WWednesday; February 22, 2017

Word for Wednesday. In The Accidental Dictionary, Paul Anthony Jones informs us that “naughty” used to mean “nothing.” It was a contraction of ne and aught, meaning “not anything.” In the 1400s the word began to take on an interpretation of “morally nothing,” and the word was used to mean bad or evil. By the Tudor era it specifically meant licentious or sexually inappropriate before gradually declining to have the  “misbehaving” meaning it generally has today.

Awards:

Robert J Sawyer won the Robert Heinlein Award for his novel Quantum Night. http://www.bsfs.org/bsfsheinlein.htm

This year’s Skylark Award, given to a person who “has contributed signifi... Read More

Crossroads of Canopy: This new fantasy series is one to watch

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Crossroads of Canopy
by Thoraiya Dyer

The thing I loved most about Crossroads of Canopy, by Thoraiya Dyer, was the elaborate and coherent world she’s created in this new fantasy, Book One in the TITAN’S FOREST trilogy. Published in 2017, Crossroads of Canopy introduces us to a society that lives in a forest, at all elevations, from the Floorians to the Canopians, who are called “Warmed Ones” because they are the only ones to feel the sun directly on their skin. With a complex theology filled with gods who incarnate as humans, a political structure that has secular rulers as well as gods, and a detailed hierarchy that is literal as well as a metaphor, Dyer brings us right into the forest and sets up a convincing adventure for our main character, Unar.

The book is not marketed as Young Adult, but t... Read More

John Langan talks Literary Horror, THE FISHERMAN and gives away a book!

John Langan has been shortlisted for numerous horror awards and received critical acclaim for both his shorter work, like his story collection Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Terry reviewed it here), and his two novels, House of Windows and The Fisherman (you can read our review here). In addition to writing, he edited the Creatures; Thirty Years of Monsters anthology with Paul Tremblay. Marion Interviewed him about The Fisherman, “literary” stories versus “horror” stories, and the power of landscape in fiction.

One random commenter with a USA mailing address will win a copy of The Fisherman Read More

The Guild Conspiracy: A good YA steampunk adventure

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The Guild Conspiracy by Brooke JohnsonPublished in 2016, The Guild Conspiracy, by Brooke Johnson, is the second book in the CHRONIKER CITY STORIES series. It begins about six months after the events of Book One, The Brass Giant. Petra Wade, a young woman fighting to be accepted as an equal in the Engineers Guild, continues her struggle while also waging an asymmetrical battle against Julian Goss, an engineer who has a terrifying view of a mechanistic future world and is willing to orchestrate a war to get it.

I liked The Guild Conspiracy much better than I liked The Brass Giant, mainly because any romance is in the backgr... Read More

WWWednesday; February 15, 2017

Obituary:

Although Edward C Bryant is not well-known these days, he was a definite influence on the genre. Locus has his obituary. His short works were frequently on the Hugo and Nebula shortlist. In 2011, Ted Chiang wrote about what he learned from Bryant’s short story collection Particle Theory for Strange Horizons.

Edward C Bryant approaches the podium on his signature roller skates.



This is a personal memorial for me because my memories of Bryant are braided up with memories of a week-long writing workshop I took in the 1980s. He was one of the instructors. His humor, his honesty and his encouragement have stayed with me... Read More

The Fisherman: Five-star horror

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The Fisherman
by John Langan

The Fisherman (2016), by John Langan, gets my first five-star review of 2017. The Fisherman is a story about bereavement. It is a story about dead wives and children. And it’s a story about fishing and the things we pull up from beneath the surface. It is horror; it will disturb you while you’re reading it, and sneak up on you for days afterward.

Langan structures The Fisherman as a series of nested stories. The story of Abe, a widower who works for IBM in 1990s New York, brackets the book, but Abe’s story is about Abe and Dan, and their story is about the story they hear from Howard. Howard’s story is really Lottie’s s... Read More

WWWednesday; February 8, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is a noun, xenodochium. It means is a hostel or guest-house, or anywhere where strangers are made welcome.

Books and Writing

Lake Powell and the Grand Escalante from the International Space Station.



Sarah Beth Durst posted a little bit about the sequel to The Queen of Blood on her spiffy redesigned website. http://www.sarahbethdurst.com/ReluctantQueen.htm

Atlas Obscura introduces us to Marie Duval, a 19th century animator who was overlooked by history.  Thanks to File 770.

Read More

The Burning Page: Lots of action but didn’t quite satisfy

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The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

The Burning Page (2017) is the third book in Genevieve Cogman’s THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY series, and it’s safe to say that a lot goes on in this book. I enjoyed it in the moment, but I was left unsatisfied on a couple of points. Even though there is a lot of activity in the book, I have to say that, for me, this was the least successful entry in this fun series so far.

Please note that on Amazon and other sites, my opinion is a minority. Most readers of this series are pleased with this book. So, as we say, your mileage may vary.

After the events in The Masked City, Irene has been busted down to probatio... Read More

WWWednesday: February 1, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday, again courtesy of Haggard Hawks, is kalokagathia, a noun of Greek origin that means goodness of character. I have to say, it doesn’t roll off the tongue. 

Conventions:

Lunar New Year Celebration, Year of the Rooster, in Singapore



Charles Stross announced on his blog that he will not be coming to FenCon in Texas in September, because, in light of the recent Executive Order signed by President Trump, Stross feels that more and harsher restrictions will be coming and that he belongs to groups that could be targeted; nor does he want to be seen to endorse the type of behavior the EO demonstrates. He is announcing it now to give F... Read More

The Conclave of Shadow: Dragons, magic and Alcatraz have the starring roles

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The Conclave of Shadow by Alyc Helms

In The Conclave of Shadow (2016), the second MR. MYSTIC / MISSY MASTERS novel by Alyc Helms, Missy, AKA “Mr. Mystic,” a shadow mage, has saved the spirit guardians of China at great cost to herself. Now back home in San Francisco, she makes a reluctant rapprochement with the corporate superhero group called Argent. Increasingly frequent earthquakes, a surprise encounter with the twin dragons Mei Shen and Mian Zi, a shadow attack at the Academy of Sciences, and the theft of super-secret technology soon put San Francisco, this dimension, and Missy herself at risk. To prevail, and hold back the forces of both the Shadow Realms and the Voidlands, Missy may have to reach out to people she does not want to trust. Along she way, she, and ... Read More

The Dragons of Heaven: A rowdy festival of fantasy genres

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The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms

The Dragons of Heaven (2015), by Alyc Helms, is a rowdy festival of fantasy genres, expertly managed by the writer. You’ve got an urban fantasy set-up with the caped-heroes angle; you’ve got Chinese folklore, dragons, shadow realms, and conventional magic; and also, for part of the book, a family saga. It’s an exciting, eclectic read.

Here is the visual of this book for me: Helms is juggling many tropes and themes. It’s like she’s got three flaming torches, a couple of clubs, a pineapple, a strawberry, and a chainsaw all whirling through the air. I may think she doesn’t need the strawberry, but everything’s moving in rhythm, so maybe I’m wrong. The story has good momentum and the characters are engaging. Helms’s visual descriptions, especially of dimensions that are different from our... Read More

Department Zero: Nifty mashup of humor and Lovecraft

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Department Zero by Paul Crilley

Department Zero by Paul Crilley is a neat mashup of humor and horror, of interdimensional fantasy and Lovecraft. First person narrator Harry Priest has a lively voice and a lot to learn when his life gets turned upside down after one really bad day at work. If you like acerbic British humor and the Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft, this is a book for you.

Priest is a crime-scene cleaner in Los Angeles. He is separated from his wife and daughter, and bitter about it. Priest hates everything about his life and takes no responsibility for anything that has gone wrong in it. Then he and the boss’s son go to a scene of carnage at a motel. Soon Priest is encountering wizened, S... Read More

Miniatures: Like pistachios; you won’t stop with one

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Reposting to include Bill's new review:

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi (2016), is a collection from John Scalzi, published by Subterranean Press. Sub Press cleverly chose only one blurb for the back cover, from Kirkus reviews: “Often verging on the silly, but on the whole, quite amusing.”

That was a stroke of marketing genius on the part of Sub Press because this collection of works does verge on the silly. It jumps the border of silly. It tap-dances and cartwheels through the world of silly, shrieking “Wheeeee!” the whole time until the end, where there is one serious piece. As a journalist, a columnist, and a long-time blogger, Scalzi works well in... Read More

WWWednesday; January 25, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is a verb; to slounge. It is old Scots and means to hang about in the hope of getting some food. It can also be a noun, someone who is slounging can be called “a slounge.” Now I have a word for the squirrels in my backyard. 

Books and Writing:

This article from Quartz looks at the prolific Isaac Asimov, who, it states, wrote 500 books in his lifetime, and tries to tease out writing lessons for all of us. Thanks to Ryan for this one.

Tor.com has this nice interview with Lois McMaster Bujold.

Locus Magazine Read More

The Gates of Evangeline: A compelling outsider main character

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The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline (2015) by Hester Young is a domestic thriller set in Louisiana. I’m reviewing it here because it has a supernatural element: Charlotte, the main character, who goes by Charlie, starts having dreams or visitations from children. At least one of the children is dead; others are, or were, in danger. These visitations lead Charlie, whose young son died suddenly, to the plantation house called Evangeline, and the thirty-year-old mystery of the disappearance of two-year-old Gabriel Deveau.

The Gates of Evangeline is Young’s first novel. I made a mistake when I started it; some pages clung together and I started with Chapter One instead of the Prologue. The opening paragraphs of Chapter One are gripping and heart-rending, as the bereaved Charlie struggles to fi... Read More

WWWednesday; January 18, 2017

I don’t read Wil Wheaton’s blog very often, but the other day I did, and I found this. Philomena Cunk is too wonderful not to share.



Awards:

Yikes! Only two days left on this one; the James White Award is still open for entries, and winner are published in Interzone. The award is open to not-yet-professional writers and the word length is 6,000 words.

The winners of the Stabby Awards for 2017 were announced, and Pierce Brown won for best novel with Morningstar.

Books and Writing:

 

Friendly Robots



Winter is coming, maybe, someday. Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Collaborative Cliche — Space Opera edition!

It’s time for another Collaborative Cliché! We all have subgenres we love, and they all have certain elements that endear them to us. And, sometimes, they use those elements just a liiittle too much.

We are going to start you off with anonymous villains, hidden asteroids, mysterious energy beams and gruff star ship captains. Yes, it’s our homage to Space Opera. Please bring out your most tired, over-used, predictable tropes, and use the Comments section to add to our interplanetary story. One random commenter with a USA address will win a book from our Stacks. And now we have liftoff:

*****


In a secret installation deep in an asteroid, a villain we won’t name yet chortled with ev... Read More

WWWednesday; January 11, 2017

Pampered Cat



Today’s word for Wednesday is pamperdom, a noun, (rare, archaic) for a state of luxury or a state of being pampered. Kind of obvious, I know, but kind of cute. In modern times, the use of this word is probably most frequently applied to cats.

Contests and Awards:

The Baen Fantasy Adventure contest opens on January 15, 2017, and will remain open until April 1, 2017. The limit for original fantasy adventure is 8,000 words. The winner gets their work published on the Baen website and a Baen shopping spree; second and third place get Baen shopping sprees plus bragging rights. The winners will be announced at GenCon in August of this year. Why not go for it?

Robert Stack provides a tabl... Read More

SFM: Byrne, Klages, Humphrey, Lecky, Vaughn

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of short fiction, old and new, available on the internet. 

 


“Alexandria” by Monica Byrne (Jan. 2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2017 issue)
They were travelers, though of the domestic sort. After their terrible honeymoon, they’d never left Kansas again.
Monica Byrne is a playwright and fiction writer who won the James Tiptree Award in 2015 for her novel The Girl in the Road. “Alexandria” starts slowly, maybe a little bewilderingly, with Beth, an older woman living alone on her Kansas farm, thinking about the death of her husband Keiji. Interspersed with a record of Beth’s days are a few quotations from documents in the future. At first, it’s hard to see how the timelines will reconcile, but rest assured they do.... Read More

Lagoon: I loved it as soon as I saw the swordfish

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Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I thought I was going to love Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Lagoon (2014) when I read the first chapter, from the point of view of a swordfish. She is not just any swordfish; she is an eco-warrior. Through her eyes, we see the arrival of extra-terrestrials into the lagoon of Lagos, the Nigerian capital. And from that point on I was never disappointed.

Lagoon does not spend too much time with the swordfish, although we do see her again a few times. The main characters are three people who end up at the Bar Beach shortly after the beings from another place have landed, and these three become the spokes-humans for the visitors. They are Adaora, a marine biologist, mother of two and wife to a troubled husband; Agu, a soldier who has recently been in trouble with his command; and Anthony Dey Craze, a successful rapper... Read More

Shadowed Souls: One way to audition a new Urban Fantasy series

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Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher & Kerrie L. Hughes

Shadowed Souls is an invitational anthology edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes. Butcher is the author of three fantasy series: THE DRESDEN FILES, THE CODEX ALERA, and THE CINDER SPIRES. Hughes is an established short fiction writer who has edited several anthologies including Chicks Kick Butt, Westward Weird, and Maiden Matron Crone.

The theme of Shadowed Souls is, “good isn’t always light and evil isn’t always dark,” and the eleven stories here showcase main characters — often from the writer’s series — who struggle not to give in to the monster within... or to keep it contained. W... Read More

WWWednesday; December 28, 2016

This is not the usual column. After the loss of Carrie Fisher yesterday at the age of 60, I thought we needed something uplifting that gives us comfort and hope. I am providing a link to the Vanity Fair obituary for our princess, because it contains Carrie Fisher's signature humor.

I know for many younger readers Princess Leia was prologue. For me (I'm the same age she was) she was a role model. And as Carrie Fisher courageously shared parts of her life, even the not-so-good parts, with the world, Fisher herself became a role model for me, a model of how to be a funny, brave, honest woman.

I'll stop talking now.

This is what I wanted to share, courtesy of NASA. The camera is mounted on the European Space Agency's Module Columbus. I think this is quite long, but it provides a perspective. If possible, watch i... Read More

Infomocracy: Terrifyingly prescient

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Infomocracy by Malka Older

In the latter half of the twentieth century, most of the world (a few areas like Saudi Arabia excepted) has moved to a form of government called micro-democracy. The world is divided into "centenals" of about 100,000 people each, and each centenal votes for its own separate government. The political party that wins control of the most centenals wins the Supermajority, which gives that party additional political clout and power, although the specific details of that Supermajority power aren’t entirely clear. There are dozens, if not more, political parties, though only about a dozen have worldwide clout. Parties are based on all types of factors: aspects of identity (like race, nationality or religion), a particular view of policy, the importance of military might, loyalty to a particular large corporation, etc. In fact, one of the most powerful parties in the world is Philip... Read More

Eternal Frankenstein: A Frankenstein horror story for practically everybody

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Eternal Frankenstein edited by Ross Lockhart

Eternal Frankenstein (2016) asks horror writers to imagine, or reimagine, the life of Mary Shelley’s infamous doctor and his “creature.” The book includes 16 stories, all of them original to this anthology, with one that appeared in a different form in the publication Perihelion.

Make no mistake, these are horror stories. Some may glance at science fiction, and some flirt with fantasy, but their primary purpose is to scare us, or make us uncomfortable as we read, and this collection succeeds at that.

The story that succeeded the best for me, because I felt the horror on multiple levels, was “Post Partum,” by Betty Rocksteady. The first-person n... Read More

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