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.

Trouble the Saints: A deeply, darkly magical Americana novel

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Trouble the Saints (2020), by Alaya Dawn Johnson, follows three people of color — Phyllis (whose friends call her Pea), Tamara and Dev — from the late 1930s into the American involvement in World War II. Not one of them is “ordinary”; Pea and Dev have “saint’s hands” that bestow a gift … or a curse. Tamara has inherited a deck of playing cards, and she’s an oracle. When the story opens, all three are trying to make a living working for the white gangster Victor in New York City.

Phyllis is light-skinned enough to pass for white, which she does, and the hands have given her the power to throw anything with amazing accuracy. She can balance things on her knuckles and the tips of her fingers; whatever she throws a knife at, she hits. The gangsters call her “Victor’s Angel,” meaning Angel of Death, and she is his assassin.
... Read More

The People’s Republic of Everything: An experimental collection

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

I don’t know if I simply wasn’t in the right mood for Nick Mamatas’ short-story collection The People’s Republic of Everything (2018), or if I’m not the right audience for his preferred themes and overall style, but this book and I just could not mesh.

There was one story, “Tom Silex, Spirit-Smasher,” which gripped my attention and had everything I look for in short fiction. The story focuses on Rosa Martinez, whose elderly grandmother might — through quirks of legality regarding her first marriage and the question of ownership of her first husband’s pulp publications — own the rights to a series of stories revolving around psychopomp Tom Silex. The character work is strong, the ... Read More

WWWednesday: February 24, 2021

Thylacine image courtesy of Discovery Magazine



Writers, Writing, Reading, Books:

Marvel’s elite artist team created the Fine Arts covers for the final issues of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run of Black Panther. Click through to see the mouth-watering covers themselves.

Wired provides a collection of interesting quotes from David Gerrold about worldbuilding and life on other planets.
Tonight, SymphonySpace is offering a live online event discussing the works of Oc... Read More

The Planetbreaker’s Son: Excellent introduction to this multi-faceted writer

The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas

PM Press’s Outspoken Authors imprint published The Planetbreaker’s Son (2021) by Nick Mamatas. The slim book includes the titular novella, the SF story “Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring,” a personal essay called “The Term Paper Artist,” and an interview with Mamatas hosted by Terry Bisson.

Honestly, the quirky interview with these two guys was worth the price of the book for me.

In a brief statement at the beginning of “Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring,” Mamatas thanks Jeffrey Thomas for an invitation to write in Thomas’s shared-world “Punktown” setting. (The story was originally published in 2018, in the anthology Transmissions from Punktown.) Punktown is a science-fictional megalopolis, filled ... Read More

WWWednesday: February 17, 2021

James Herman Banning



James Herman Banning was a Black American aviator, part of the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, and the first black pilot to fly across the continental United States. 

Contests:

Waukegan Public Library’s Ray Bradbury Writing Contest announced its winner: Orton Ortwein. Waukegan is Bradbury’s birthplace.

Writers, Writing, Reading, Books:

Scott Edelman offers hors-d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal in this episode ... Read More

Beasts of Tabat: Vivid worldbuilding delivers a world in political upheaval

Beasts of Tabat by Cat Rambo

Because I got an ARC of Hearts of Tabat, the second book in Cat Rambo’s TABAT QUARTET, in 2018, I read it before the first book. I thought that would have a negative impact on my reaction to Book One, Beasts of Tabat, but as I was reading, my brain reset itself, and when I got to the end I was almost as shocked as if I hadn’t had some inkling what was coming. That’s some good storytelling!

In Beasts of Tabat, we meet Teo, a village boy. His family are shapeshifters, hunted down and killed by the ruling class of Tabat. When his family plans to send him to the Temples of the Moon, Teo flees from the docks of the capital city, Tabat, where politica... Read More

WWWednesday: February 10, 2021

Matiline Berryman had degrees in mathematics, law and maritime affairs with a concentration in oceanography and sonar engineering. She taught courses on oceanic dynamics and underwater sound at the New Naval Oceanographic Office. Later, she taught at the University of District of Columbia and later served as Chair of the university’s Department of Environmental Services. 

Writers, Writing, Reading, Books:

Is this article on POV helpful?

I like this take on world-building, but of course I would because it’s how I introdu... Read More

WWWednesday: February 3, 2021

Alice Ball developed the first effective treatment for Hansen's Disease.



Awards:

The Infected by Art winners are announced. Some very nice stuff here! (Thanks to File770.)


Writers, Reading, Writing, Books:


Read Bill Capposere’s personal essay on the judgments we make, and the things we don’t know.

Paul Weimer, known as Prince Jvstin on Twitter, had his account deleted last week, ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite speculative fiction soundtracks

Television and streaming services have given us a wealth of speculative fiction content the past several years.

HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even Syfy have delivered interesting, thoughtful programming with high production values, including outstanding soundtracks.

Which show has your favorite sound track? Why? Tell us in the comments.

One commenter with a USA mailing address will win a book from our Stacks or a $5 Amazon gift card. Read More

WWWednesday: January 27, 2021

Amanda Gorman wowed a lot of us last Wednesday. PBS interviewed her earlier, and this video addressed her preparation for the inauguration.

Obituaries:

Mila Furlan, who starred on Babylon Five, passed away after a long illness. Her character Delenn’s comment, that “we are made of star-stuff,” seemed like a fitting observation for this hardworking actor.

The New York Times published a tribute to a pioneering Black speculative fiction writer, Read More

WWWednesday: January 20, 2021

The Ursula LeGuin postage stamp



In the USA a new administration takes office today. Yesterday, President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris held a service for the more than 400,000 people in the USA who have died of Covid. The service included lighting the lights around the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Writers, Writing, Reading, Books:

Locus published an obituary for Storm Constantine, who died last week. Constantine’s work embraced the weird. She was an expert in Tarot and the occult, and worked to amplif... Read More

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London: Selling books and fighting evil

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

1983-era London, with a half-twist toward the fantastic, mingles with ancient British mythology in Garth Nix’s new urban fantasy, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (2020). Art student Susan Arkshaw, a punkish eighteen-year-old from rural western England, takes leave of her loving, vague mother and heads to London to try to find the father she’s never met. She starts with an old family acquaintance, “Uncle” Frank Thringley, but Frank turn out to be, in rapid succession, (a) a crime boss, (b) disincorporated by the prick of a magical hatpin, and (c) a Sipper — which is a milder type of blood-sucker than a vampire.

The wielder of the silver hatpin is attractive nineteen-year-old Merlin St. Ja... Read More

WWWednesday: January 13, 2021

Distance, from the Urban Crow Oracle Deck



Awards:

The Endeavor Committee is suspending the 2021 Endeavor award for various reasons, many associated with Covid 19.

The Washington DC Science Fiction Committee is accepting submissions for its small press award.

The Critics Choice awards were announced on January 10.

The Speculative Literature Foundation announces its $1000 grant to a South Asian or South Asian diaspora writer.

Writers, Writing, Reading, Books:

From the Washington Post, Read More

Marion chats with M.A. Carrick (giveaway!)

Marie Brennan is the author of the LADY TRENT series and before that the ONXY COURT secret history fantasy series. Alyc Helms is best known for the MISSY MASTERS superhero urban fantasy trilogy set largely in San Francisco. These two accomplished writers are long time friends who collaborated on this year’s second world fantasy The Mask of Mirrors. Both writers live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they agreed to give us an interview about their new series, worldbuilding, conventions and fashion.

A personal note, I’ve met Brennan and Helms at a California convention, and as you know, I Read More

WWWednesday: January 6, 2021

Wishing Tree in Portland, Oregon, from Atlas Obscura.



Happy 2021, everyone.  Congratulations on making it this far.

Conventions:

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society reported out on the findings of an investigation into the behavior of Eric Gasior, Vice Chair of the Virtual BaltiCon 54.

Giveaway:

One commenter will get the trade paperback version of Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House.

Tech and Fun:

From Boston Dynamics, the famous dancing robots.



Books and Writing: Read More

WWWednesday: December 30, 2020

 

Labyrinth at Dawn, Earthrise, Petaluma, CA. Image by Marion Deeds



2020 is nearly out the door. Vaccines are on their way, and positive change is in the air as the days grow (infinitesimally) longer. Wishing you all a joyous 2021 and a safe, healthy New Year’s Day to those who celebrate.

The city of Nashville experienced a shocking bombing on Christmas Day. Here is one site that helps direct donations to the residents of that city.

In 2020, people who never imagined they would need a food bank found themselves depending on one. The crisis is not over. If you are looking for a last-minute 2020 donation for your taxes, this site identifies food bank in the USA.

... Read More

Ninth House: Black magic in Yale’s secret societies

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern (the name courtesy of her hippie mother) seems an obvious misfit at prestigious Yale University. Wealth, athletic talent and academic stardom are nowhere to be found in Alex’s life. Instead she’s a high school dropout with a history of dead-end jobs and drug use, and the survivor of a traumatic multiple homicide. But she has a rare talent that to date has brought her nothing but grief: Alex sees the ghosts of dead people.

As it turns out, that talent is highly useful to Yale’s eight elite secret societies, and they’ve had their eye on Alex for a while. Each of these houses specializes in a different type of black magic — Skull and Bones, for example, performs ritual vivisections of living people, examining their inner organs to predict stock market changes — and these dark rituals attract ghosts. A nin... Read More

WWWednesday: Lovecraft Country, Book and TV Show

Lovecraft Country, Original Cover



One commenter with a USA mailing address will get a trade paperback edition of Lovecraft Country.

I watched Season One of HBO’s adaptation of Lovecraft Country before I read Matt Ruff’s original novel-in-stories. I liked each of them, for different reasons. I will be comparing and contrasting here.

Ruff’s book came out in 2016. It embraces and honors the pulp era of speculative fiction, especially short fiction, especially the weird (the title is a clue). Ruff wanted one important difference from the weird fiction and comic books of the 1950s—he wanted Black main characters. Three linked families, the Berrys, the Turners and the Dandridges, encounter a centuries old coven of magical practitioners and weird magic, while navigating the “everyday” horror of a racist society. In the opening passage, Attic... Read More

Neverwhere: A wonderfully fantastical setting

Reposting to include Maron's new essay.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is a novel that improved dramatically for me on reread, which actually was a surprise to me. I originally read it about six years ago when, in an odd twist worthy of London Below, it mysteriously appeared one day on my clunky Kindle 2, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again (luckily I had finished it just in time). I was fascinated by the marvelous and imaginative setting of Neverwhere and London Below, but only mildly entertained by the plot, which ― other than the beginning and the end ― I found quite forgettable.

Still, when I was offered the chance to read a 2016 edition of Neverwhere with the “author’s preferred text” and illustrations by Chris Riddell, whose illustrations make Gaiman’... Read More

WWWednesday: December 16, 2020

 

Menora. Image by Navah Wolfe



The story of Chanukah is that a small but dedicated group of Jewish fighters drove the Syrian Greeks from the Holy Temple, and rededicated it. They found only one small container of holy oil for the lamps that hadn't been contaminated by the invaders, but through their faith, they made it last for eight nights. The odds may be daunting, but have faith, and don't be afraid to shine a light in the darkness.

Books and Writing: 

Youtuber Morganeua carefully, thoroughly and cleverly examines Isaac Asimov’s use of -ly adverbs. (Thanks to File 770.)



Cat Rambo offers a 20-minute overview on Tips for Pantsers (writers who don’t outline your book in advance.)
... Read More

The Mask of Mirrors: Does just what you want a first novel in a series to do

The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick

As a reader, it’s rare for me to find a book that has nearly every trope I love. The Mask of Mirrors (2021), Book One of M.A. Carrick’s ROOK AND ROSE series, manages just that. Reading the Advance Reader Copy of this book was like nibbling my way through a box of gourmet chocolates curated just for Reader Me. A large box of gourmet chocolates.

And what are those favorite tropes? Well, con artists, secret identities, false identities, masked outlaws who fight for the common people, dangerously suave criminals, sword fights, dramas of manners, verbal duels, physical duels, intriguing magic, family secrets, cool clothes, masks of course, and, yes, chocolate. I was going to say, “there were no magic books,” but I’m revising that — there are divination cards that function much the way a good magical book does.
Read More

Piranesi: “The Beauty of the House is immeasurable” indeed

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I was going to start this review of Piranesi (2020) by Susanna Clarke by stating that I was of two minds on the novel and then noting that this was both appropriate and also strong praise. Appropriate because the book is in many ways of the mind, and is as well of two worlds. Strong praise because my two minds were “I loved it” followed by “I liked it.” But then I thought more about it, and I decided my minds were really “I loved it,” “I liked it,” then “I loved it” again. But I could work with that, because really, the book functions on more than two levels. But then I thought about my reading some more, and I decided that my mind now was simply, singularly, “it’s brilliant.” Which is still, granted, strong praise, but no long... Read More

WWWednesday: December 9, 2020

Holiday Star, image from Cleanpubliddomain.com



Conventions:

DisCon III (next year’s Worldcon) is trying to decide whether to hold an online in August, 2021, or move their date to December of that year and try for an in-person event. They are polling the community. You do not have to be a WorldCon member to take the survey.

At this time, the Horror Writers of America still plans to hold their May, 2021 StokerCon as an in-person event. They are creating a contingency plan, though.

Books and Writing:

December is “best of” and “roundup” month, and LitHub honors the traditi... Read More

WWWednesday: December 2, 2020

David Prowse. Image by Starwars.Fandom.com



Obituary:

David Prowse, best known to me as the towering, menacing Darth Vader, passed away this week. He was 85.  I knew the man was tall; I didn’t know he was that tall.

Books and Writing:

After Fireside Fiction’s editor Pablo Defendini selected a white male reader as the voice talent for a nonfiction piece by a black woman, Brian J. White has stepped in as the interim editor. Defendini, who is the m... Read More

WWWednesday: November 25, 2020

Raven Story Postage Stamp



DisCon, slated for August of 2021, updated its membership counts.

Books and Writing:

A little inspiration for participants in NaNoWriMo: Seven published works that started off as WriMo projects.

George R.R. Martin provides his irregular, semi-annual update on The Winds of Winter, and no, he hasn’t finished it. (Thanks to File770.)

Publishers Weekly reports that Read More

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