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: Magical Medical Facilities

The brave wizard trio of the HARRY POTTER series were quite familiar with Hogwarts’s infirmary.

In Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series, the Shadow-hunter Institute also has a nice infirmary, although it looks like they outsource most of their medical work to the witch/warlock community.

Magical communities have their medical needs, just like everybody else, with some special twists. If you’re a werewolf and you are injured in wolf form, are you better off with a veterinarian than a surgeon who works on humans? Do vampires suffer from anemia? And do the faerie folk risk environmental allergies in an increasingly industrialized world?

Some fantasy series do address medical needs in an organized fashion, not by just seeking the help of a mystical he... Read More

WWWednesday: October 9, 2019

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It started a few minutes before sunset yesterday.

Octopus Dreaming:

PBS’s Nature ran a show on the octopus. A scientist studies Heidi, the octopus who lives in an aquarium in his living room. He captured this eerie, beautiful footage of Heidi changing color while she was apparently asleep. These colors manifest in the octopus while it is hunting or eating, so the scientist “narrates” Heidi’s dream.



Nobel Prizes:

The Nobel prize in physics was awarded to a Canadian scientist and two Swiss scientists Read More

Steel Crow Saga: A big old basket of wild, zany fun

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Paul Krueger’s first book, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, was a quirky, fun urban fantasy in which magical bartenders saved Chicago from primordial evil. Based on that, I was eager to read his 2019 novel Steel Crow Saga. After I pre-ordered it, I began to read, on Twitter and other places (I follow Krueger on Twitter) that it drew heavily from the tradition of Japanese animation and the series/game Pokémon. Since I’m one of the six people in the continental USA who knows nearly nothing about either of those topics, I began to wonder if I would be the right reviewer for this book. I didn’t need to worry. This 512-page book does draw from Pokémon, gloriously celebrates ani... Read More

WWWednesday: October 2, 2019

Happy Fall! Autumn Leaves



Conventions:

Tad Daley shared some more WorldCon pictures on File 770.

Some self-promotion; I’ll be attending AtomaCon in November. It’s a cozy South Carolina convention. I’m not a guest, just a participant, but look forward to meeting any FanLit fans who might attend.

Awards:

Gollancz and Ben Aaronovitch are sponsoring a fiction contest open to Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers in Britain. (The ... Read More

WWWednesday: September 25, 2019

Deaths and Memorials:

Margaret Atwood’s longtime partner, writer and conservationist Graeme Gibson, died last week. He was 85.

Aaron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died last week at the age of fifty.

vectorstock Image



Books and Writing:

Heather Demetrios wrote an article last week that got a lot of attention. Taking a “learn from my m... Read More

The Toll: Priest breathes creepy, swampy, glimmering life into Southern Gothic

The Toll by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest’s 2019 Southern Gothic novel The Toll delivers the creeping terror, the strangeness and the surprises I’ve come to expect from her, since she is the queen of this subgenre. From the weird, dying little town of Staywater, Georgia, to a house haunted by dolls, to “granny women” and ghosts, to that thing in the swamp, The Toll builds and delivers on a mood that progresses from shivery to biting-your-fingernails suspenseful.

As a character in the book (and the back cover blurb) points out:
State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee Rover, between Fargo, Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that road from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven. But you’d better hope not. Read More

WWWednesday: September 18, 2019

Poveglia Island, photo by Atlas Obscura



Awards:

I can’t believe people have to do this, but apparently they do… Archive of One’s Own issued a statement explaining that their Hugo win was for the concept of the archive itself, and the achievement of creating a space and a community for fanfiction, not for anything written or produced on the archive. AO3 is a community of people who write fanfiction, which means they are using worlds, concepts and characters developed by someone else. No writer on the site “won” a Hugo for their fanfiction.

It turns out that some of the people who apparently needed th... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite fictional libraries

Library of Congress



They’re all the rage; hidden libraries, secret libraries, magical ones, forbidden archives and lost collections. They’re locations and plot fuel for books, stories, movies and television shows. And we all have our favorites.

Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library, in the series of the same name, spans realities and dimensions; some libraries, like the Vatican Archives in Dan Brown’s ROBERT LANGDON series, are firmly rooted in one world, but go back centuries. One of the most popular libraries, the library at Alexandria, has been gone longer than it existed, but it still grabs our imaginations.

What is your favorite library or archive? And let’s look across media; you can cite collections from books, video games, television or movies. And let’s not get too pi... Read More

WWWednesday: September 11, 2019

Begonia, Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden



Awards:

File 770 posted this year’s Dragon Award winners. Brad R. Torgerson won best SF novel for A Star-Wheeled Sky, and Larry Correia won best fantasy novel for House of Assassins.

Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu won the Barry Ronge award in South Africa for her book The Theory of Flight. The award honors writers whose works “enthrall with their imagined worlds.”

Books and Writing:

BookExpo Read More

Marion chats with Alix E. Harrow

Alix E. Harrow is best known for her short fiction, especially her recently Hugo-award-winning story, “A Witch’s Guide to Escape; A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies.” Alix’s debut novel is due out today, September 10, 2019. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a portal fantasy itself, filled with beautiful descriptions, witty writing, fearsome dilemmas, corrupt leaders, and the power of words. Here's our review.

Before she broke into the fiction field herself, Alix reviewed for our blog for a time. She took time out of her busy schedule, both writing her second book and getting ready to promote The Ten Tho... Read More

WWWednesday: September 4, 2019

I hope those of you in the USA enjoyed your Labor Day weekend. 

Obituary:

Jim C. Hines, who had reported that his wife Amy was living with cancer and cancer treatments,  let people know via Twitter and his blog that Amy has passed away. Our condolences to the Hines family.

Contests:

Interzone’s James White award for unpublished stories announced its short list.

WorldCon:

File 770 highlighted this Read More

Shadowblade: A pleasant entertainment

Shadowblade by Anna Kashina

Anna Kashina’s 2019 second-world fantasy novel Shadowblade is pleasant entertainment: a mix of swordplay, political double-crossing, lost heirs and imposters all sweetened with a dollop of romance. It’s not my usual thing, but it was the right book for a drowsy, hot late-summer day with a big, sweating glass of iced tea close by.

Dal Gassan is present for the betrayal and slaughter of the Queen of Challmar and her entire court, ambushed by the Emperor Shabaddin just as she is signing a peace treaty with him. A newborn baby girl survives the mass killing, spirited off by one of the Queen’s loyal women. Because he is a member of the Daljeer Circle, Gassan is spared by the Emperor’s assassins, but Gassan begins to hatch a plan to be rid of rule of the Emperor.

Seventeen years later, Gassan visits the training grounds of the Jaihar Blademaste... Read More

WWWednesday: August 28, 2019

After the Hugos:

There are, as always, a few controversies in the wake of this year’s WorldCon. One is about a possible WorldCon being held in China. Chengdu has a bid for the 2023 WorldCon, along with Nice, France. Cheryl Morgan discusses some pros and cons about Chengdu and Nice. (There is apparently a large group of fans who have a fixation with it being in the USA, which I don’t get, since the Con’s name is WorldCon. On the other hand, we call a national sporting event the World Series, so maybe it is consistent.)

Nicholas Whyte, this year’s Hugo Administrator, delved deeply into the Hugo nominations and final votes. Enjoy the details. He also discusses the apparent dissatisfaction with the Best Fanzine category, which had more No Award... Read More

The Ten Thousand Doors of January: Go read it now

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019), by Alix E. Harrow, is one of the most beautiful books you will read in 2019. It may be one of the most beautiful books you’ll read in your lifetime. When I say it’s beautiful, I don’t simply mean the prose and the imagery, although those both are gorgeous. I mean that this is a beautiful story. The journey of January Scaller, set against the USA’s Long Gilded Age, is a story of plausible hope, of learning to use your own power, and a story of the power of stories.

January Scaller is an “in-between” girl, the ward of the wealthy, powerful and mysterious Cornelius Locke. She is always conscious of her tenuous status.
Sometimes I felt like an item in Mr. Locke’s collection labeled "January Scaller... Read More

Gods of Jade and Shadow: Romantic fantasy set in 1920s Mexico

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Casiopeia Tun is the poor relation of the Leyva family, put to work as a servant to her grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s established early, though, that she’s not one to take easily to subservience. Sure, she’ll probably do what she’s told — eventually — but it won’t be with a smile. She cherishes a few modest dreams of the things she’d see and do if she could only escape the family home and the dusty little town of Uukumil. When the family leaves her out of an outing as punishment, she sees her chance and opens the forbidden chest in her grandfather’s room. She’s hoping for a few coins to fund her escape to Mérida. Instead, she awakens Hun-Kamé, a Mayan death god.

It turns out that he was imprisoned there by his jealous brother, Vucub-Kamé, in order to usurp the throne of the underw... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Where would you want to live in space?

One of the joys of science fiction is imagining living in space. If you could, where would you choose? There are several choices.

How about a “local” planetary colony? In Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine, the title character comes from Mars. Many golden age writers imagined moon settlements, an idea Andy Weir tackled most recently in Artemis. THE EXPANSE, by James S.A. Corey, takes a look at smaller settlements in the Kuiper Belt, with humans already experiencing the p... Read More

WWWednesday: August 21, 2019

Mary Robinette Kowal and other 2019 Hugo winners. Photo by John Scalzi



Hugos:

The Hugos were announced in Dublin, Ireland on Sunday evening. Winners include:

Best Novel: Mary Robinette Kowal for The Calculating Stars
Best Novella: Martha Wells for “ Read More

This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us: A meta-fictional roller coaster

This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us by Edgar Cantero

This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us (2019), by Edgar Cantero, is a metafictional roller coaster ride in which the safety bar that holds you into your seat occasionally turns into licorice whips else or disappears completely.

One definition of metafiction is a form of fiction that comments on fictional and literary elements by self-consciously departing from literary conventions within the narrative. If you like metafiction, you will get a kick out of Cantero’s story, and you will probably especially enjoy the opening, which restarts four times, I think, utilizes screenplay format, and has sentences like this one:
She wandered in like a fairy-tale top model into a CGI forest, a flutter of long skirts and flaming red hair kiting be... Read More

WWWednesday: August 14, 2019

Perseid Meteor Shower. Image from Illinois Science.



Cons:

WorldCon 77 starts Thursday in Dublin, and many of our favorite writers and artists are already there. Two Guests of Honor put together a Dublin eating and drinking guide. (Thanks to File770.)

GenCon was held earlier this month in Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s billed as “more games than you could ever play in your lifetime.” I’m not a game person, but the Parks game grabbed my attention!

Arisia faces another setback, with an arbitration decisio... Read More

Shadowhouse Fall: Still magical, still powerful, still wonderful

Reposting to include Kelly's new review.

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper was one of the best books of 2015 — not “best YA books” but best books of all categories. It featured an engaging, authentic female hero, an original magical system, mundane issues as well as magical ones, and a distinctive voice and sensibility. 2017’s sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, shows no second-book slump in this series.

Sierra Santiago is mastering her skill as a shadowshaper, an ability that melds spirit contact with art, and adjusting to her new role as the Lucera, but things are not calm or quiet in her neighborhood. A powerful rival group called the Sorrows still purs... Read More

State Tectonics: A surprising and triumphant ending

State Tectonics by Malka Older

State Tectonics (2018) is the third book in Malka Older’s CENTENAL CYCLE trilogy. The series is a Hugo finalist in the Best Series category. It did not end the way I expected it to!

(This review may contain spoilers for the previous books.)

At the end of Null States, the second book, the handful of main characters had uncovered a plot, not just against the micro-democracies, but against Information, the worldwide information-provision system itself. Now, in the third book, three or four baffling threads converge into a tangle of motivations, betrayals and, ultimately, revelations.

Since the events in Null States Read More

WWWednesday: August 7, 2019

Cons:

WorldCon begins Thursday, August 15, in Dublin, Ireland. You can follow it on Twitter.

Books and Writing:

Medium has a podcast with writer Neal Stephenson, talking about digital facial recognition, social media and space exploration.

Over at Crimereads, Via Mullholland makes the argument that William Gibson, Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson really wrote technothrillers. Why? Because over at Crimereads, they like technothrillers.

The Verge... Read More

Shadowshaper: Five-star characters with five-star prose

Reposting to include Kelly's new review.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

I’ve commented before that I give very few five-star reviews. Usually, I expect a book to somehow change my thinking, or how I see the world, in order to rate it a five-star book. As I sat down to write this review I was going to say something like, “While that didn’t happen with Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older, I still…” and then I thought more about it, and decided that Shadowshaper (2015) has changed how I think about the world, mostly because of the time I spent with the main character, Sierra Santiago, who is a hero, an artist and a genuine girl.

As far at the plot goes (and it’s a fast-paced one) in many ways Sierra is a classic Chosen One, a trope that som... Read More

WWWednesday: July 31, 2019

Awards:

Stephen Pastis was awarded the Reuben Cartoonist of the Year Award. (Thanks to File 770.)

The World Fantasy Award finalists are announced.

Earth's moon. image by NASA



Cons:

Locus has a report on May’s SFWA Nebula weekend.

2021 WorldCon site voting has opened.

B... Read More

WWWednesday: July 24, 2019

The house John Adams was born in. Photo by Marion Deeds



Awards:

Rosewater by Tade Thompson won the 2019 Arthur C. Clarke award.

The 2019 Prism Awards, for excellence in LGTBQ+ Comics, were announced at San Diego ComicCon. For short form, see me by e Jackson won. SuperButch won for excellence in a webcomic.

The Inkpot Awards were announced at ComiCon.

Read More

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