Marion Deeds

Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

WWWednesday: November 24, 2021

This Guardian UK story follows the process of restoring an ancient book of psalms.

Articles about the Dragon Awards always draw me in, because the Dragon Award is fairly new and it’s a chance to watch an award evolve in the wild. That said, the title of this one baffled me for several paragraphs, but rest assured, Goodreads does make an appearance!

The Huntington Museum is offering an exhibition of graphics demonstrating how authors have “mapped” their fictional works.  (Thanks to File 770.)

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Scribe: Come for the bleakness, stay for the poetry

Scribe by Alyson Hagy

Alyson Hagy’s slim 2018 literary novella Scribe mines Appalachian folktales for a bleak, harrowing and poetic story about loss, guilt, love and honor. By deliberately setting the story in a world outside of our time and space, Hagy forces attention onto the characters, which at times gives the book the feel of a stage-play more than a story or a poem.

In spite of an otherworldly setting, this novel isn’t speculative fiction. Hagy isn’t raising questions about how people live in a world like this one. She’s exploring the effects of isolation, guilt and trauma against a folkloric setting, and asking, “In a terrible situation, how do we find the good in each other?”

In order to help set expectations, I will engage in a mild spoiler. In this world, there has been an historic civil war. There have, it seems, been several wars. There have been mi... Read More

WWWednesday: November 17, 2021

From two months ago, the British Fantasy Award winners (better late than never). Some of our favorites, like Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Alix E. Harrow, are on here!

How about an anthology of Christmas stories edited by SFWA Grandmaster Connie Willis? 

Comeuppance Served Cold got a starred review  (or, as my husband called i... Read More

The Language of Power: An unfinished series, a frustrating cliffhanger

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

2014’s The Language of Power is the fourth and final complete book in Rosemary Kirstein’s THE STEERSWOMAN series. Kirstein is hardly the worst offender in the ranks of writers who stopped writing before a series was finished. Still, the sense of urgency that develops in the final few pages of the book left me hanging, almost literally. Since this is the fourth book in the series, this review might contain spoilers for the previous books.

The cliffhanger is one thing, but the book left me disappointed and frustrated in other ways, too. In the previous book, The Lost Steersman, steerswoman Rowan interacted with a native species previously unknown t... Read More

The Bone Shard Daughter: A fast-paced, enticing adventure

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (2020) by Andrea Stewart is a fast-paced, enticing read, with an attractive world and a magical system that grabs the imagination with both hands and doesn’t let it go.

Stewart’s debut is the first book of a series, THE DROWNING EMPIRE. In an archipelago empire, the imperial Sukai dynasty defeated the powerful Alanga, who ruled it. The current emperor, Shiyen, uses bone shard magic to protect his citizens from the possible return of the Alanga. Shiyen runs his empire using constructs, chimera-like beings animated by chips of bone taken from every citizen of the empire, usually when they are children. At events called Festivals, chips of bone are chiseled out of each child’s skull, sometimes with fatal results. Those chips, later implanted... Read More

Call of Fire: Searching for friends in the shadow of Mount Rainier

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Call of Fire (2017) continues the adventures of Ingrid Carmichael, introduced in Breath of Earth as a secretary at a geomancy school with tremendous hidden powers and who, in this second BLOOD OF EARTH novel, is on the run from an ambitious ambassador with deadly secrets. This time, Beth Cato takes Ingrid, Lee Fong, Cy Jennings, and the brilliant engineer Mr. Fenris up the Pacific Northwest coastline to Portland and Seattle, where the Japanese influence of the United Pacific conglomeration is inescapable.

Ambassador Blum, a mysterious woman who can change her physical form and practices a dark form of reiki, desperately wants to get her hands on Ingrid, which forebodes all kinds of suf... Read More

WWWednesday: November 10, 2021

The Word Fantasy awards were announced last weekend. Trouble the Saints, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, won for Best Novel. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi took the award for Best Novella, and Celeste Rita Baker’s “The Glass Bottle Dancer” took home the best short story award.

In his newsletter, Max Gladstone announced that CRAFT Sequence merchandise is now available. Yes, you too can now have a Red King Consolidated T-shirt.

If you’re a Hugo voter this year, John Scalzi reminds you that the deadline is looming.

File 770 writes about Read More

Nightshifted: Nurse Edie Spence’s first adventure

Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

Edie Spence has a degree in nursing and a job at the County Hospital, in the Y4 ward. County Hospital, the public hospital that treats everyone, insured or not, is a tough gig at any time — Y4 is both tougher and weirder, being the floor that treats daylight servants of vampires, vampires themselves, shapeshifters, and all sorts of were-folk. Oh, and did I mention zombies? The work is hard and dangerous, the pay is abysmal, but by working here, Edie guarantees protection for her junkie brother.  As Nightshifted opens, Edie is consigning her decision to just one more in a long list of bad life choices.

Then a vampire patient dies, but not before giving Edie a puzzle, or perhaps placing her under a compulsion. When the night shift is over, Edie goes out searching for a person named Anna, the vampire’s dying request. She finds a dark apartment with a wall of pictures of ... Read More

Lights of Prague: I wasn’t the audience for this one

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague (2021) is Nicole Jarvis’s first novel. It’s set in 1868 Prague, filled with pijavica* — vampires — and other magical creatures. Fighting the pijavica are the lamplighters, whose cover job is to go around lighting the new gas streetlamps in the city. Domek Myska is a lamplighter, apprenticed to an irascible alchemist. Lady Ora Fischerova is a widowed noblewoman with a secret, who has started up a flirtation with Domek. A bold and terrible plan hatched by an upstart nest of vampires threatens them and the entire city.

At first glance, a story like this should be right up my street. Lovely prose, detailed history and descriptions of Prague helped, but ultimately, flattened characters and a predictable plot made this book a disappointment.

The most beguiling character of the book is Kaja, an imprisoned will o’... Read More

Under the Whispering Door: A warm-hearted meditation on death

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When I got to the scene in Under the Whispering Door (2021) featuring an opportunistic “medium” being messed with by two ghosts, I started laughing so hard I fell over sideways on the loveseat. My husband kept saying, “What? What?” and I could only gasp, “You’ll… have to read it yourself.”

You’ll have to read it yourselves, too.

2021’s Under the Whispering Door is TJ Klune’s second fantasy book marketed to adults. His first was The House in the Cerulean Sea. Under the Whispering Door is a more personal book for Klune; he says in his afterword that he wrote it as a way of coming to grips with grief and loss. Despite the seriousness of the topic, the book ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 3, 2021

Facebook has changed its name to Meta, with a sort-infinity-sign logo. That was close enough to Neil Stephenson’s “metaverse” that Axios interviewed the writer about it.

World FantasyCon (this month in Montreal) is offering day memberships. This is a hybrid con, part online and part in-person. (Thanks to File 770.)

George R.R Martin hosts a Wild Cards-themed event at th... Read More

Grave Reservations: A quirky, engaging protagonist anchors this Seattle mystery

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Leda Foley is trying to keep her single-person travel agency afloat. Grady Merritt is a Seattle PD detective away at a conference. When Leda changes his return flight plans without notice or explanation, she saves his life — and outs herself as a psychic. Back home in Seattle, Grady hires her to assist on a baffling cold case he won’t let go of. Abruptly, a psychic episode shows Leda that this case and unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod three years earlier are connected.

2021’s Grave Reservations is a slight departure for Cherie Priest; no airships, no horror and hardly any ghosts. It isn’t exactly her first foray into mystery, because I am Princess X has strong mystery el... Read More

The Lost Steersman: Rowan makes true “first contact”

The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein

In the third book of Rosemary Kirstein’s STEERSWOMAN series, steerswoman Rowan steps off the edge of her known world and risks her life in the process. Originally published in 2003, this book has been reissued. My review may contain spoilers for The Steerswoman and The Outskirter’s Secret.

The Lost Steersman begins with a prologue, a letter from Rowan to the Prime of the Steerswomen, recapping events in the first two books and warning the Steerswomen of the serious danger... Read More

WWWednesday: October 27, 2021

Saint Heron has opened a unique free library featuring material from Black and Brown writers and poets.

Public Service Announcement: Dune the movie does not cover the complete novel, a fact that will not shock many of you. It opened last week, and reviews are in. CNBC quotes a couple of early reviews here. Richard Brody of the New Yorker  wants you to know that he really liked the David Lynch version. At Ars Technica, Read More

The Outskirter’s Secret: An interesting book too long for its story

The Outskirter’s Secret by Rosemary Kirstein

The Outskirter’s Secret, Book Two in the STEERSWOMAN series by Rosemary Kirstein, was originally published in 1992. It was reissued, along with the other two books in the series, in 2014. This review may contain spoilers for The Steerswoman.

At the end of The Steerswoman, Steerswoman Rowan had made an intuitive leap about the nature of the Guidestars, celestial objects that fill the night sky in her world and are a point of amazing stability. Rowan not only figured out the origin of the objects, but conjectured that one had fallen, and that the wizards had something to do with it. As The Outskirter’s Secret opens, she an... Read More

WWWednesday: October 20, 2021

(Single issue column today.)

A Discovery of Witches, the TV show, is the product of a collaboration between AMC and BBC. It airs on AMC and is available to stream from AMC+. The series is based on the Deborah Harkness ALL SOULS trilogy and features witches, demons and vampires in the modern (and very upper-crust!) world. Here are our reviews of the first book.

Since this story travels globally and through time, the cast is large. I’ll give a truncated cast list at the end.

I haven’t read any of the books. This gave me a perspective on the show that I don’t usually get with adaptations; I was coming to it fresh, with no idea what was going on.

Sadly, by the end of the second season, I still had no idea what was going on.

On the plus side, the show is beautifully ... Read More

The Steerswoman: The Steerswomen’s code of open information is refreshing

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

Originally published in 1989, The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein, was reissued by the author in 2013, along with the rest of the four existing books in the STEERSWOMAN series. This first book introduces the world of steerswoman Rowan, and the order of steerswomen (and some men), who travel the world gathering and sharing information and knowledge. There is only one kind of knowledge steerswomen don’t have — magic.

When the book opens, Rowan has stopped at an inn to question the innkeeper about a strange stone she found years ago, inside the trunk of a tree she cut down. The rules of society are these: a steerswoman will answer any question you ask if she knows the answer, and any person must answer the questions asked by a steerswoman. The w... Read More

WWWednesday: October 13, 2021

New York City’s Comic-Con resumed in-person events last weekend. The organizers followed through on their promise of reduced capacity, and required masking and other safety protocols, including proof of vaccination.

John Scalzi announced that the Tor Essentials edition of his comic novel Redshirts is available now.

Publishers Weekly also reported that book club favorites for this Read More

And What Can We Offer You Tonight: Dreamlike, angry horror

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

Premee Mohamed’s novella And What Can We Offer You Tonight (2021) is set in a drowning city where human life is not cheap — it’s worthless. If starvation, violence or disease doesn’t kill you, probably one of the routine government “culls” will, unless you are one of the uber-wealthy, living elsewhere and treating the city like a personal playground/hunting-ground, or a person who services the very wealthy. This leads us to Jewel, our first-person narrator, a courtesan in an elite, exclusive and very expensive “house,” the House of Bicchieri.

Jewel gets a portion of every client’s payment, and a share of any tips; it seems like she would have enough money to escape the “gilded cage” in which she lives, if she wanted to, but the courtesans ... Read More

The Fire Opal Mechanism: Lovely worldbuilding, an enjoyable read

The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde

Of course I’d be a sucker for any book with a brave librarian, and Fran Wilde’s 2019 novella, The Fire Opal Mechanism, has one such, along with a resourceful thief and a time travel device. This short book is an enjoyable read. I haven’t read The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a novella set in the same world. Probably some of the comments about the jewels will make more sense to people who have read that story, and there is a crossover character, but this novella does stand alone well.

Ania has been promoted to Master Archivist at the Far Reaches university library, after the previous archivist has vanished. As the story opens, she is frantically... Read More

WWWednesday: October 6, 2021 (Giveaway!)

On Monday, Facebook and its associated applications went offline for six hours, leaving businesses cut off, people unable to easily contact family members, and some folks unable to control the thermostat or laundry settings in their homes. Mark Zuckerberg offered a terse apology on his platform. The Verge discusses the probable reason,  a coding error released in an automatic upgrade.

The shortlist for the National Book Award is out now.

The Deep Cuts in a Lovecraft Vein blog takes a look at Read More

WWWednesday: September 29, 2021

And now… travelogue.

Mono Lake, Ca.

The calcium carbonate towers, with their knobs and twists, that decorate the water and the shores of Mono Lake in eastern California were (and are) formed by the interaction of freshwater springs below the lake’s surface and the highly mineralized lake water. They’re called tufa. Mono Lake’s salinity is much higher than any ocean; the only things that live in it are brine shrimp and alkaline fly larvae, both of which provide a banquet for many varieties of birds. The lake is currently 65 square miles in area, but it used to be much larger. The Owens Valley project diverted water from the lake to be used by Los Angeles for decades until it was finally stopped only a few years ago. Many... Read More

WWWednesday: September 22, 2021

It will be a very short column this week.

At Lit Hub, Joe R. Lansdale thinks back about the Hap and Leonard series and how Leonard came into being. He updates the column with memories of Michael K. Williams, who played Leonard in the series.

Maria Dahvana Headley’s translation of Beowulf took the Harold Morton Landon translation award.

FIYAHCon 2021 has made some of its panels available at no cost... Read More

Bacchanal: Trapped souls, a dark carnival and a quest for belonging

Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry

In the northern hemisphere, it’s heading for autumn, when nature slows and sleeps, when days get shorter, and tales get spookier. It’s the time of year for “dark carnival” tales, and Veronica G. Henry provides us with a new one, Bacchanal (2021), her debut novel.

In the late 1930s, The G.B Bacchanal Carnival makes the south-and-southwest circuit of the USA, and along the way they often pick up new acts. Clay, a red-haired white man from Chicago, is the “face” of the carnival, but all the acts are Black performers. Clay and his lieutenant, Jamey, a Black man born in the south, scout for talent. The people they hire are not your average performers; they all have a touch of magic. And Clay, for all his apparent authority, is not the boss of the operation. That position is held by a powerful African demon, Ahiku, who uses the carnival to search for (... Read More

Breath of Earth: Alt-history and magic in a high-stakes adventure

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

Breath of Earth begins a new fantastical alternative-history series from Beth Cato, in which hydrogen-filled airships dot the skies, giant beasts in the ground cause earthquakes, and Teddy Roosevelt became an internationally-renowned Ambassador rather than the 26th U.S. President. (There’s also a nationally touring opera prominently featured in a side plot; if Lincoln isn’t a sly nod to a certain massively popular Tony-winning musical, I will eat my least-favorite hat.)

In an almost-recognizable San Francisco, a permanent establishment of geomancer wardens keeps the city and the surrounding countryside safe from tremors and other manifestations of magical energy. By absorbing the earth’s power and transferring it to crystals of a special mineral known as kermanite, the wardens all... Read More

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