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.

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2018 Nebula Awards: Novelettes & Short Stories

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 54th Annual Nebula conference (May 16-19) will be held in Los Angeles, and the 2018 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

Today let’s talk about the finalists for Best Novelette and Best Short Story. We'll talk about other categories in future columns.

Here are the finalists in these categories. Click the links to read our reviews and get the links to the stories:

BEST NOVELETTE:

“An Agent of Utopia” by Andy Duncan, Small Beer Press (review coming soon)
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Tor.com
Read More

WWWednesday: April 17, 2019

Gene Wolfe. Image (c) Locus Magazine



Obituary:

Gene Wolfe died on Sunday, April 14. Wolfe was a master writer who is probably best known for THE BOOKS OF THE NEW SUN. Wolfe’s work dealt with identity, memory and mystery, often featuring a main character who didn’t realize that he (and it was usually a “he”) had only a small part to play in a much larger story. His prose is amazing, and he will be missed. Tor.com celebrates the life of this master storyteller.

Awards:

File 770 presents the long list for the Best Books in Translation award.

... Read More

SFM: Cho, Stueart, Palmer, Kingfisher

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few excellent stories, including two of the recently announced Hugo nominees, that we wanted you to know about.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (2018, free to read online or download at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog). 2019 Hugo award nominee (novelette).

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, by Zen Cho, is a Hugo-nominated novelette about an imugi, a Korean creature who isn’t quite a dragon yet, but desperately wants to ascend to Heaven and jo... Read More

Traitor’s Blade: Full of adventure and derring-do

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Traitor’s Blade is the first installment in Sebastien de Castell’s GREATCOATS series and is an interesting blend of genres — like The Three Musketeers with classic fantasy. At the core it is about a young man whose heart is broken and who has found meaning in defending ideals that are greater than himself.

An oft-used, but nonetheless compelling storyline in fantasy is the abuse of power by the nobility. Whether it’s something as simple as overtaxing and overworking the lower classes or some of the more heinous examples where the Nobles rape, murder and torture with seeming impunity, the concept remains that power unchecked corrupts. Falcio Val Mond has had his fill of exactly this sort of thing. As a young husband his experiences have riven his soul and created in him a desire for justice that... Read More

WWWednesday: April 10, 2019

This week’s word for Wednesday, courtesy of Haggard Hawks: the noun babby-laker, meaning a person who engages in foolish speculation or ideas. Try to use it in a sentence sometime this week.

Books and Writing:

Shelf Awareness and Sarah Pinsker discuss favorite books.

Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer will judge the 2019 Neukom Awards. The Awards gives a $5,000 prize for excellence in a speculative fiction work that honors the imagination. (Thanks to Locus Read More

That Ain’t Witchcraft: A standard entry in this entertaining series

That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire

The crossroads have always been a place of power and magic, a place where humans could go to make bargains. In the late 15th century, though, the nature of those bargains changed, becoming cruel and tricky, often with deadly results for the humans. In Seanan McGuire’s That Ain’t Witchcraft (2019), Annie Price and her incryptid friends must confront the crossroads to help an ice sorcerer (and get back Annie’s magic, which the crossroads are holding as collateral), all the while dodging Leonard, the loyal heir to the leadership of the Covenant of St. George, a deadly organization intent on destroying all the incryptids on earth. Once again, Annie must function without the help of the loyal and wonderful Aeslin Mice.

After Annie and her boyfriend Sam, who is a furi, a ... Read More

WWWednesday: April 3, 2019

This week’s word for Wednesday is velutinous, an adjective, meaning to have a soft, velvety surface, usually used to describe plants.

Obituary:

Vonda McIntyre, author of the award-winning Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun, passed away on April 1. McIntyre had announced eight weeks earlier that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. McIntyre founded Clarion West in 1970 and ran it for three years. McIntyre’s work was an inspiration to imagination, and she personally was a source of great encouragement and support for emerging writers.

Spring Wildlflowers, image from Sierra Club.



Awards:

The Hugo F... Read More

A Hawk in the Woods: Monsters may be scary, but it’s family that’ll get you

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

Abby Waite, a moderately successful internet celebrity, is diagnosed with a terminal disease. The prognosis, even with treatment, isn’t good, so Abby decides it’s time to break her twin sister Martha, serving a twenty-year sentence for murder, out of prison, and go to the family cabin in Minnesota. It should come as no real surprise that the prison-break is the easiest thing to accomplish in A Hawk in the Woods (2019), by Carrie Laben, a road-trip-family-reunion-horror-story inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep.”

Both Waite daughters have powers. They are orphaned, and now that they are out on the road, it seems that they have attracted the attention of various horror-style predators. The story alternates between the weird road trip and flashbacks to ... Read More

Queen of No Tomorrows: Atmospheric writing in a story of LA Noir-weird

Queen of No Tomorrows by Matt Maxwell

Matt Maxwell’s 109-page novel (I’d call it a novella), Queen of No Tomorrows (2018), mixes American tentacular-weird with LA Noir, flavoring the story with bits of pot-smoke-fueled punk imagery of the 1980s. It is a story that thrives on shadows.

Cait MacReady works as a book restorer for the Los Angeles Public Library. On the side, she locates rare, exotic occult volumes for discerning customers… or, when the books are unavailable, creates them herself. She is an expert forger, and when Queen of No Tomorrows opens we learn that Cait has created her first original book, which she has named The Smoking Codex. Cait feels as if she practically channeled the book; she wrote the text as if in a dream and doesn’t know where the inspiration for the artwork came from. It is a masterpiece and she is proud of it. Now s... Read More

WWWednesday: March 27, 2019

Wow, that month went by fast.

Awards:

Gabriela Damian Miravete has won the James Tiptree award for 2018 with They Will Dream in the Garden.

The Horror Writers Association awarded their Specialty Press award to Raw Dog Screaming Press. There’s an evocative name.

Conventions:

(Re)Generation Who 5, a Doctor Who convention scheduled for this upcoming weekend, has cancelled abruptly. (Thanks to File 770 for this item.)

Author Brian Fies with his graphic memoir at C...

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Charmcaster: Politics and family get more complicated in this one

Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell 

"But when an Argosi encounters something new — something that should not exist and yet could alter the course of history — we are compelled to paint a new card: a discordance." 

Charmcaster (2018) is the third book in Sebastien de Castell’s SPELLSLINGER series. In it, we see another nation in Kellen’s world, a different form of magic adopts Kellen, and the political situation convolutes in even more dangerous ways. Ferius, Kellen and Reichis team up with some new allies and manage to make still more enemies. Kellen, an exiled Jan’Tep scion who has rebelled against his ruthless, manipulative and politically astute father Ke’heops, still manages to unintentionally aid his father’s interests.
... Read More

WWWednesday: March 20, 2019

In honor of the first day of spring, here is a video of spring thaw in Yosemite, CA. (Some may find the guitar music annoying.) It’s more of a photo album of the park and the valley, but still. Happy spring for those of us in the northern hemisphere. southern hemisphere folks, happy autumn. (Is that right?)



Awards:

Of course there is an award for best vampire fiction; did you ever doubt it? The Lord Ruthven Awards for 2019 were announced, with Theodora Goss’s European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman winning for best work of long fiction. A work by Amy J Ransome, I Am Legend as American Myth, won for best nonfiction.

Conventions: Read More

Shadowblack: A solid, entertaining second book in the SPELLSLINGER series

Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell

“You think you’ve had it bad? I’ve been on the run for ten years. Bounty hunters, hextrackers war mages…” He shook his head. “You steal one too many sacred books and all of sudden you’re an outcast.”

Shadowblack (2018), by Sebastien de Castell, picks up shortly after Book One, Spellslinger. Kellen, the exiled son of a Jan’Tep prince, is traveling with an Argosi named Ferius Parfax and a squirrel cat named Reichis, who will not admit that he is actually Kellen’s familiar. There is a bounty on Kellen’s head now, placed there by his people, the Jan’Tep, because Kellen showed symptoms of a demonic infestation called shadowblack. Ultimately, the demoni... Read More

Spellslinger: A YA novel full of magic, cons, and card tricks

Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Spellslinger sounded right up my street — a young adult novel full of magic, cons, card tricks and a plucky underdog. If it didn’t live up to my high hopes I blame the misleading words emblazoned on the back cover that read “Magic Is A Con” — an enticing promise that isn’t delivered because, well, magic turns out not to be a con. Nevertheless, while it wasn’t the story I expected, Spellslinger is an enjoyable romp in its own way.

Kellen and his classmates are all set to complete the trials that will secure their future as “Jan’tep” — a magical people who wield five pillars of magic — breath, iron, silk, blood, ember and sand. If they fail the trials they will be forced to live out their lives as “Sha’tep”, an under-class destined to serve through manual labour. The only problem is, Kellen has lost his magic. Howev... Read More

The Winter of the Witch: Beautiful and powerful

Reposting to include Marion's new review:

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Medieval Russia comes to life in Katherine Arden’s WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY, which began in Lesnaya Zemlya, a small village in northern Rus’ in The Bear and the Nightingale and continued in The Girl in the Tower. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a young woman with the rare ability to see and speak with the natural spirits or chyerti of the hearth, stables, and lands and waters of Rus’. Vasya has gained the attention and respect of the winter-king Read More

WWWednesday: March 13, 2019

Books and Writing:

Joshua Bilmes founded Jabberwocky Literary Agency. In this interview with the Odyssey Writing Workshop, he provides some valuable information on the role of agents and dispenses writing advice.

Nerds of a Feather spends a few minutes with writer and editor Catherine Lundoff, who shares some book recommendations.

According to the U.K. Guardian, the release of Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale will be a media event, com... Read More

Unholy Land: A twisty, mentally challenging story

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

I absolutely loved Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station (and was not alone in that), and while his newest, Unholy Land (2018), didn’t blow me away quite to the same extent, it kept me on the couch in “don’t talk to me I’m reading” and “uh-huh, uh-huh, ya don’t say, uh-huh” mode all afternoon while my family just rolled their eyes and gave up, as they know to do when all the signs of being engrossed in a great book are manifest (luckily, they live those moments as well, so it’s a fond eyeroll... )

The novel is set in an alternate universe setting where the Jewish homeland of Palestina appears not in the Middle Eas... Read More

The City in the Middle of the Night: On my “Best of 2019” list

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The second novel by Charlie Jane Anders, The City in the Middle of the Night (2019), surprised me. Having read her fantastical debut novel All the Birds in the Sky, and her sociological science fiction novella Rock Manning Goes for Broke, I was not expecting a story set on an exo-planet and a society vastly distant from Earth in time and space. While the story has the modern sensibility Anders personifies, the challenges the human settlers face hark back in some ways to the golden age of SF. It’s a thoughtful, heartful take o... Read More

Sourdough: Celebrates the appreciation of excellent food

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I really loved Robin Sloan’s Sourdough (2017), but not everyone will. You probably will if you’re a foodie (I am), an introvert (I am), and a bit geeky (I am). If you love sourdough bread (I do) and magical realism (I do), you’ve just got to read Sourdough. And you must try the audio version. It’s amazing.

Lois is new to San Francisco. She moved from Michigan, where she grew up, and she’s starting a job as a programmer of robotic arms at a tech company where everyone works so hard that they basically have no other life. Most of them just eat a nutritive slurry rather than bothering to plan, shop, and prepare meals.

Most nights Lois orders her dinner ... Read More

WWWednesday: February 27, 2019

Awards Finalist Lists:

The Nebula short-list has been announced.

Housekeeping:

There will be no column next week, March 6, but expect some photos from FOGCon on March 13, and check the Twitter feed for tweets from Terry and me during the convention.

A Sahara Desert dune.



Lawsuits:

The writer and internet personality who sued the San Jose WorldCon Committee last year has had four of his five charges dismissed by a Santa Clara judge. Two failed as a matter of law because the plaintiff claimed he was discriminated against on the basis of is political... Read More

WWWednesday: February 20, 2019

So, cousin, ya think we'll win Best Picture? Erik Killmonger and Prince T'Challah. Photo from Vox.com



Cons (Shameless Plug):

For any of our readers in northern coastal California, FOGCon is coming up, March 8-10. Guests of honor are Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) and Becky Chambers (A Closed and Common Orbit). Your humble reviewers, Terry Weyna and me, will be on panels. Terry will participate on “Down to Earth; the Future of Green Burial,” and “Discovering Short Fiction.” I will be part of the panel titled “Just What is She Looking For?” and “It’s Never Too Late,” or as I like to call it, the old writers’ panel. (Seriously, you can be successful after 30! That’s the tagline.) It’s not too late to register. If you’re there, we’d love to mee... Read More

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

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