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.

Battle Hill Bolero: A satisfying conclusion to an important series

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Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older

Battle Hill Bolero (2017) is the concluding novel in Daniel José Older’s BONE STREET RUMBA trilogy of urban fantasy novels set amid the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, NY. While not as strong as the preceding novels, Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) and Midnight Taxi Tango (2016), Battle Hill Bolero does deliver on what Older does best: vibrant and diverse characters, a multi-cultural and multi-faceted city that fully comes to life, and a hefty dose of righteous indignation. Bear in mind that this... Read More

WWWednesday; March 22, 2017

According to Haggard Hawks, the same way a flock of crows is called a murder, the poetic term for a group of salamanders is a maelstrom. And you can find many more cool collective nouns for animal groups here.

Awards:

This year’s Tiptree Award went to Anna-Marie McLemore for When the Moon was Ours.

Independent horror publisher Word Horde had a very good day at the This is Horror awards. John Langan’s The Fisherman Read More

The Evil Wizard Smallbone: Young readers will love this funny, exciting fantasy

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The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

What is it about Maine? Stephen King and John Connolly both write terrifying horror stories set there, and Delia Sherman places The Evil Wizard Smallbone, a middle-grade fantasy published in 2016, in Maine in the winter. That state must have a lot of magical juice.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone not only shares the horror of a Maine winter, it’s got an evil wizard, shape-shifting coyote-bikers, a small and somewhat magical town called Smallbone Cove whose residents have forgotten their own strange history to their peril, and a scrappy boy named Nick who stumb... Read More

Passing Strange: Simply irresistible

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Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages’ short novel Passing Strange (2017) is a beautiful, fantastical melding of history, romance, magic and revenge, set against a meticulously researched San Francisco of 1940. At just over 200 hundred pages, the story follows six women in the city, each one in some way an outcast. Add a present-day story frame that includes secret passages in Chinatown, pulp magazine covers of the 1940s, and an elaborate scam, and for many of us you have something irresistible.

I loved Passing Strange from the cover by Gregory Manchess. That wistful moonlit scene is central to the story in more than one way. Take a moment to study that cover before you open the book, and then, when you’ve finished, feel free to go back and savor it some more.

In the present day, Helen Young, a ... Read More

Black City Demon: This creepy, magical Prohibition-era Chicago comes to life

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Black City Demon by Richard A. Knaak

Black City Demon (2017) is the second BLACK CITY SAINT adventure of 1930s ghost-hunter Nick Medea, who is really Georgius, or Saint George, and who is sixteen hundred years old. Currently living in Chicago, Nick, who is also the guardian of the Gate between our realm and Faerie, combats human evil and the worst of the Faerie influences that come through the Gate. He has very few people he considers friends, but several allies he can’t completely trust... and a strong, beautiful woman who is the current incarnation of the princess he loved when he was Georgius.

Richard A. Knaack’s historical urban fantasy series delves into the history of Chicago and provides a different spin. In Read More

A Criminal Magic: Suspenseful plot, great descriptions of magic

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

In A Criminal Magic, Lee Kelly creates a world in which the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1919, banned sorcery rather than alcohol. Kelly combines remarkable creativity, imagination, and insight into the human condition, blending fantasy with history and ending up with a complex, entertaining, compelling novel.

Naturally, the passage of A Criminal Magic’s fictional amendment results in the same response as its historical analogue: sorcerers are thrust into the criminal underworld, brewing an illegal ruby-red elixir. This “shine,” as it’s known, is smuggled by gangsters into “shining rooms” across the country, fronted by legal liquor bars and raided by members of the Federal Prohibition Unit who... Read More

WWednesday; March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day.

This week’s word for Wednesday is panchreston, a noun that can mean an answer so vague, generalized and all-encompassing it provides no answer at all, or a panacea, something meant to “cure all ills.”

Books and Writing:

Today Tor.com is providing a collection of short fiction based on the theme “Nevertheless she persisted.” Politics-watchers, feminists and people on Twitter will recognize the now-famous words applied to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Thanks to Terry Weyna.

Unbound Worlds Cage Match 2017



Unbound Worlds has opened its annual Cage Match, a bracket contest featuring science fiction versus fantasy characters. Writer... Read More

The Fuse: The Russia Shift (Giveaway!)

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The Fuse (Vol. 1): The Russia Shift by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

(No spoilers, but this review is also a Giveaway. I met Justin Greenwood, who draws The Fuse and got a signed copy of this collection, which one random commenter with a USA mailing address will get.)

The Fuse: The Russia Shift is Volume One in the collection of this comics science fiction police procedural series, set on a space station orbiting earth. The Russia Shift introduces us to our two cops; Ralph Dietrich, just arrived from Earth, and his more experien... Read More

The King in Yellow: Weird stories that inspired H.P. Lovecraft

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Reposting to include Jason's new review.

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

... It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured by even the most advanced of literary anarchists... It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on the words in which the essence of purest poison lurked.

Robert W. Chambers was an American writer who was born in 1865. He studied art in Paris for a time, returning to the U.S. to be an artist and illustrator. He sold some drawings, then switched tracks and began writing. His first novel was called Read More

WWWednesday; March 1, 2017

Awards:

The Bram Stoker short list is announced. I am jazzed to see that John Langan’s The Fisherman is on there, but as usual there are several fine books in the mix.

In case you missed the Academy Awards, here is this list of winners. Moonlight took Best Picture, even if another film literally walked off with their Oscar.

Cat. (c) 2017 by Tracy J. Butler



The Hugo nominations close at midnight March 17, 2017. You must be a WorldCon member, either full or associate, to nominate. If, like me, yo... Read More

The Raven’s Table: Viking fans, horror fans and gamers will find plenty to like

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The Raven’s Table: Viking Stories by Christine Morgan

Christine Morgan’s work has appeared in various anthologies, such as History is Dead, a Zombie Anthology, and Uncommon Assassins. Her work is closely related to role-playing games and she is a dedicated gamer according to her website. The Raven’s Table: Viking Stories is a story collection of her Norse or Viking-themed works. The collection includes poetry, adventure, fantasy and horror in a couple of flavors. Five of the eighteen pieces are original to this collection.

Morgan’s work has its roots deeply in epic fantasy, and almost all of these tales are set during the Viking years. A couple take place in a locale that might be the Norse colonies in Labrador. Morgan’s language is right for an oral tradition, and several of the prose... Read More

SFM: Larson, Barnhill, Jones, Levine, Marzioli, Lee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of free short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories that caught our attention this week. 



“Masked” by Rich Larson (July 2016, free at Apex, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue. Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction)
It’s been a whole month since anyone’s seen Vera, and the circumstances of us finally seeing her this weekend are going to be ultra grody-odd, so I deliberate forever doing my Face. In the end I decide to go subtle: an airbrushed conglom o... Read More

Shards of Honor: Fall in love with the Vorkosigans

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Editor's note: This is Marion's review of Shards of HonorBarrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice. Kat's comments about Shards of Honor and Tadiana's review are below.

Do you like fancy military uniforms? Shiny spaceships that blow things up? Brooding aristocrats with hulking stone castles and dark secrets? Snappy comebacks and one-liners? Voluptuous women warriors? Swords and secret passages? Surprising twists on standard military tactics of engagement?

If you answered “Yes” to three or more, check out the Vorkosigan Saga. Lois McMaster Bujold started this series in the mid-80s. The Vorkosigan books start out as space opera, even having maps of the various planets a... Read More

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.

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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

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