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.

WWWednesday: May 23, 2018

This week’s word for Wednesday is courtesy of Dictionary.com, and it’s the noun gnashnab, which is a person who complains about everything.  It sounds like it would be the name of a Dickensian character, doesn’t it?

Sandhill crane near Lake Helen, Florida



Nebula Awards Announced:

The Nebula awards were announced on Saturday. N.K. Jemisin took home Best Novel for The Stone Sky; Martha Wells’s “All Systems Red” won Best Novella; Kelly Robson won with “A Human Stain” for best novelette and Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience ™” won for best short story.  Read More

The End of the Day: Before Death, meet Charlie

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The End of the Day by Claire North

“I am the Harbringer of Death,” Charlie explains countless times to airport security, friends of friends, nurses, doctors, strangers in bars, passengers on trains. Because before Death, comes Charlie: sometimes as a courtesy and sometimes as a warning, but always before. Meeting people from every possible walk of life, Charlie discovers what it is to be human in The End of the Day, a genre-defying tale.

When we first meet Charlie he’s somewhere in Central America, trying to locate an old woman called Mama Sakinai. He explains to a mule driver that he is the Harbringer of Death. He is here to bring Mama Sakinai some whisky. Sometimes Charlie comes to mark the end of the world, or a world. In this case, he is marking the end of an era: Mama Sakinai is... Read More

WWWednesday: May 2, 2018

Awards:

The winner of the National Prize for Arabic Fiction, Ibrahim Nasrallah, won with the novel The Second War of the Dog, which contains speculative elements.

The Locus Awards finalists are announced.

Robert Jackson Bennett writes about what it’s like to have a work nominated for a Hugo (he is up for Best Series for  the brilliant DIVINE CITIES trilogy).

Reminders:

The column will be on hia... Read More

WWWednesday: April 25, 2018

Awards:

The David Gemmel Award finalists are announced.

The nominations for the World Fantasy Award are now open. Thanks to File770.

Cons:

Avengers; Infinity War, photograph from marvel.com



Hopes for a shenanigan-free WorldCon in 2018 were dashed when a writer filed suit against the WorldCon76 Committee. He alleges that the con committee’s action in January, 2018 to limit his membership from attending to participat... Read More

Memory: Why Bujold is secretly revolutionary

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

My copy of Memory looks like it was reread several dozen times and then shoved in the bottom of a backpack and schlepped a few hundred thousand miles (it was). It’s my favorite book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA, which is a series made up of some of my favorite books. But it isn’t high literature or uber-intellectual science fiction or the kind of book that people call “genre bending.” The plot is pure, fast-paced, crime-solving fun, like the rest of the series. It’s just a cheap paperback.

But it moved me, and continues to move me. This review is my attempt to understand how and why. After some thought and another rereading, I’ve come to suspect that it’s a book built on tiny, imperfectly perfect human interactions. The meat of Memory isn’t... Read More

Good Morning, Midnight: Your book club might enjoy this

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Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s general fiction novel, Good Morning, Midnight (2017), is literary in nature but uses speculative elements to contemplate isolation, hope, despair and human connection. The book has beautiful prose, especially in some of the descriptions of the arctic, and interesting insights into human nature, but it was not a completely satisfying book for me. In a few places, the hand of the author can be seen forcing events in order to make the story work, and some of these tropes, particularly the literary ones, felt too familiar. Still, it’s worth checking out for the writing alone.

Good Morning, Midnight follows two characters who are about as far apart spacially as one can imagine. Augustine is an astronomer who has remained behind at an arctic observatory site... Read More

Mirror Dance: A fine metaphor

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance. Kat's comments about Mirror Dance are at the bottom.

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot esca... Read More

WWWednesday; April 18, 2018

Awards:

 

This year’s Man Booker Prize finalist list includes two works of genre interest.

Books and Writing:

Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El and Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zog, star-crossed lovers in Krypton. Photo from SyFy.com



At Tor.com, Seanan Maguire writes about fanfic as the best writing school there is.

For all you writers out there, some of these markets are open through the end of the month, so send them your stuff!

Read More

Exit West: A slightly speculative exploration of love, migration and nationality

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

2017’s Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is definitely not speculative fiction. It is general fiction, literary in nature, which uses a trope of speculative fiction as one way to explore the nature of war, love and human migration.

There is always a risk when a general fiction writer “discovers” speculative fiction and tries to write it without having read within the genre. The story often contains hackneyed, tired-out elements which the writer trumpets as new and amazing. Hamid dodges this risk completely. His strange black rectangles, which appear in doorways, like in closets or storage sheds, and lead to other parts of the world, are not explained. Even though they lead to mass migrations, they are a minor part of the story. Exit West focuses on the impact of migration on nations, communities, ... Read More

Brothers in Arms: Adds a new facet to the Vorkosigan character

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot escape his Barrayaran heritage, however. In The Vor Game, he must rescue his cousin and planetary emperor Gr... Read More

Will Do Magic For Small Change: Interesting characters, great ideas, and theater arts

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Will Do Magic For Small Change by Andrea Hairston

Andrea Hairston’s 2016 novel Will Do Magic for Small Change spills out across traditional fantasy subcategories like the foamy head of a beer. There are urban fantasy elements, historical fantasy, science fiction and coming-of-age themes in this tale, which is set alternately in 1987 and the turn of the 20th century. And while I don’t think there is a subgenre called “performance magic” or “theater magic” yet, when there is, this book will be a seminal example because the love of the theater and performance runs all the way through it.

In 1987, Cinnamon struggles to find acceptance. She is African-American, tall for her age (fourteen), heavy, super-smart and a motor-mouth in a very particular way. She wants to sing and act on stage and she’s gifted, but racism and sexism blo... Read More

WWWednesday; April 11, 2018

Our word for Wednesday is a phrase. “The Halibut Gamble” is how I feel every time I cook it, but it’s also the opening move in a chess match.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland



Books and Writing:

George RR Martin shares his moment as “Cover Boy” of the Chinese version of Esquire.

Check out our New Releases list. What do you see that intrigues you?

It’s National Library Week!

Charles Soule Read More

Unbury Carol: Many interesting parts that didn’t quite fit together for me

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Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol (2018) is billed as a Weird West story, and Josh Malerman has staged it in a world that has the trappings of the mythical American West — stagecoaches, outlaws, “triggermen” and a perilous Trail the outlaws ride. Malerman’s prose is elegant and he manages to create, at least with the character of Sheriff Opal, an authentic sense of rhythm and regional speech. Moments of bizarre imagery startled me and captured my imagination. Overall, though, the many intricately carved pieces just didn’t fit into a congruent whole for me.

Carol Evers is a wealthy heiress in the frontier town of Harrows. She has been married to Dwight Evers for about twelve years. Carol has a condition that drops her into deep comas, so deep that she appears to be dead. Her heart beats once a minute and she may draw two breaths... Read More

WWWednesday; April 4, 2018

This week’s word for Wednesday: Is “willy-nilly” really a contraction of “Will I, Nill I,” old English for “Will I, Won’t I?”

Awards:

The Hugo finalists are out! Congratulations to all of the finalists!

File 770 gives us the 2017 Aurealis Award winners.

Geese in flight, Photo by Photography U.K.



 Books and Writing:

With a recently passed law meant to make it easier to stop and prosecute human trafficking, we may have once again wandered into the Land of Unintended Consequences, Read More

WWWednesday: March 28, 2018

Leonaro da Vinci's Robot model. Courtesy of the Robot Museum.



Science and Tech:

“We could store all the data currently on the internet in the size of a shoebox,” says a scientist in this BBC World News segment about using DNA for data storage. Is that the best SF What-If ever?

1984; it’s a great book, but it’s not the right dystopia for the 21st century.” In light of the revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, this TED talk becomes very interesting. It’s just under 25 minutes long.

Books and Writing:

Read More

WWWednesday: March 21, 2018

Books and Writing:

When a writer sells international rights to a book, publishers frequently change covers. In the case of Barbara de Mariaffti’s book, the British publishers also changed the title. This is an interesting article about marketing and the state of fiction in Canada and Britain.

Mayan plaque, Courtesy of National Geographic



Over on Book View Café, Marie Brennan writes about body modification as adornment.

…and, the Feminist Story Bundle continue... Read More

Shadowhouse Fall: Still magical, still powerful, still wonderful

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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 pursues her. Early in the ... Read More

WWWednesday; March 14, 2018

This week’s column will focus mostly on FOGCon, held in walnut Creek, California. I’ve included a few other tidbits first though.

Steampunk hats in the FOGCon dealers room.



Books and Writing:

Lit Hub and VanderMeer on writing tips.

Robert Jackson Bennett writes about the need to bring an analytical mind to the books, stories and movies you love. (Bennett commented on Twitter that he didn’t think Erik Killmonger in Black Panther was a well-developed villain, and I’m wondering if that statement and the resulting... Read More

The Will to Battle: War is still coming — oh, wait, it’s here

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The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

Unlike winter in George R.R. Martin’s SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, the long-dreaded war in Ada Palmer’s TERRA IGNOTA finally does show up, or appears to, at the end of Book Three, 2017’s The Will to Battle. The war starts in the final six or seven pages of the book.

This doesn’t mean nothing happens in the 344 pages leading up to the war. In The Will to Battle, the avatar of the Greek warrior Achilles appears; the role, if not the identity, of the editor designated as A9 is revealed; the various Hives grapple with their governance structures and their identities. Sniper is abducted; J.E.D.D. Martin ... Read More

Cetaganda: A murder mystery in space

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cetaganda (1996) is the ninth novel that Lois McMaster Bujold published in her popular VORKOSIGAN SAGA but, chronologically, the story takes place earlier in the sequence, between The Vor Game and Ethan of Athos. If you’re new to this series, I (and the author) recommend reading these novels in order of internal chronology which is how we have them listed here at Fantasy Literature. I read some of them out of order because of how they were presented in the Baen Omnibus editions and I regret that. The story flows much better if you read them chronologically. (Still, though, any order is better than not reading them at all — this is a great series!)

In Cetaganda Read More

The Grip of It: Compelling and scary

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The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

TerryJac Jemc’s The Grip of It (2017) made the long list for the Bram Stoker Award for 2017, and for good reason: it’s delightfully frightening, and refuses to be set down before the reader has finished it. We both loved it.

Here’s the premise: James and Julie have decided to leave the city for a small town a good distance away, looking for a clean break from financial problems (though Julie has determined she is not going to harp on how James gambled all of his nest egg away; she’s just glad the joint account is still intact). They’ve decided to buy an older home with lots of closets and dark wood, with a forest starting right where the backyard ends. There’s a weird sound in the house that the real estate agent assures t... Read More

WWWednesday: March 7, 2017

The Oscars:

The Shape of Water won Best Picture, and Jordan Peele's incisive social-commentary horror film Get Out won for best original screenplay. A good year for speculative fiction.

Genevieve Valentine gives critique of the Dresses of the Red Carpet.

Conventions:

Tomorrow, March 8, I’ll head down to Walnut Creek, California for FOGCon. Expect next week’s column to be the FOGCon edition.

Spotted tailed Quoll



Books and Writing:

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Norse Mythology: A master storyteller relays the myths he loves

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman makes no secret of his love of Norse mythology and folklore. It shows up over and over in his fiction (Sandman, American Gods, Odd and the Frost Giants to name a few); and he has mentioned his love of the stories in interviews and essays. In Norse Mythology (2017), Gaiman puts his distinctive narrative voice in service to th... Read More

The Vor Game: Mixes space opera with political drama

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance. Kat's comments about The Vor Game are at the bottom.

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot esca... Read More

The Sky is Yours: We wrestled with this literary SF novel

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

I wrestled with this review for Chandler Klang Smith’s 2018 novel The Sky is Yours from the first paragraph. I wanted to refer to it as a “zeitgeist novel.” After I wrote that, I glanced at Wikipedia and decided that, as Inigo Montoya says to the Sicilian in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, I’ve decided that The Sky is Yours is not a zeitgeist novel. It’s more self-conscious than that. It is a novel of the zeitgeist, using a future-dystopia to comment on the values, concerns and fears of modern living.

The Sky is Yours is about t... Read More

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