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: December 12, 2018

Quite a few video clips this week! 

Books and Writing:

NPR reviews the graphic novel Parallel Lines by Oliver Schrauwen.

Snow Queen by Vladislav Erko (c) Vladislav Erko



 

Sarahmay Wilkinson shares the pleasure, and process, of developing a book cover for a debut writer.

Scribner and Sons will retire its Touchstone imprint, and Susan Moldow, the president of Touchstone, will retire, both at the end of the year. Touchstone’s genre properties will move to Atria and Galaxy.

Have... Read More

WWWednesday: December 5, 2018

A Joyous Hanukkah to all those who observe.

A Joyous Festival of Lights.



Conventions:

In addition to electing new officers Arisia has banned some people and restricted the involvement of others, in the wake of the report of their mishandling of a sexual assault complaint.

Scotland, known already for its Fringe Festival, will hold its first speculative fiction/horror fiction literary festival.

Afua Richardson will be a featured artist at WorldCon in Dublin, Ireland in 2019.
Read More

A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

Marion: We never know the name of our first-person narrator in Alexandra Rowland’s 2018 novel A Conspiracy of Truths. People call him Chant, but that is his vocation, not a name (he abandoned his name when he became a Chant). Chants gather stories and retell them. They go from place to place pursuing their craft, and in the isolated and insular country of Nuryevet, Chants offends the wrong people, and is put on trial for witchcraft.

As soon as he opens his mouth to defend himself, Chant makes things worse, and he’s imprisoned and facing a death sentence. His publicly appointed advocate, Consanza, is a reluctant helper at best, and certainly not an ally. Worse, Chant has come to the attention of several of the Primes, the elected rules of Nuryevet — in particular, the Queen of Pattern (think CIA). He uses the only tool ava... Read More

WWWednesday: November 21, 2018

Jovian Close Encounter. Image Courtesy of NASA



Those of you in the USA, or who observe the holiday, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Everyone else, have a great day tomorrow!

There will be no column next week. I’ll be back on December 5, 2018.

Books and Writing:

Unbound Worlds will no longer be providing original material as a blog, although features may be incorporated into other venues within Penguin Random House.

Last week Jonathan Franzen posted 10 Rules for Writing. They might be useful for emerging writers; they were definitely useful for established writers of all genres (but particularly speculative fiction) who had fun with them –and Read More

The People’s Republic of Everything: An experimental collection

Readers’ average rating: 

Reposting to include Marion'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... Read More

WWWednesday: November 14, 2018

Obituaries:

Stan Lee



I chose Polygon’s obituary of Stan Lee, the creator of what we now call the Marvel universe, over the many articles. Lee passed away on November 12, at the age of 95. Lee’s impact on the American culture will take decades to fully reveal itself, but the ugliness of the past two years, with elder abuse charges and restraining orders, are only a blip in the long life of a man who has given each of us indelible memories and heroes with whom we can identify.

Insider compiled all of Stan Lee’s cameos over the years.

The ma... Read More

SFM: Palmer, Schutz, Gregory, Goh, McKee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly 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.

“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer (2018, free online at Clarkesworld, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Science fiction humor is very hard to pull off, and rarely works for me. This Suzanne Palmer story is a radiant exception. Palmer hits a grand-slam with a human soldier who has 33% of his body replaced with smart parts, including a heart, one arm, part of the lower intestine and a spleen. An implanted Central Control Unit manages all of the implants, and their mission is to keep Joe alive. There are a couple of problems. One is that, while Joe is a good s... Read More

WWWednesday: November 7, 2018

Happy Diwali, or Festival of Lamps, to those who observe the holiday.

Flower Tower, by Reared in Steel. (c)Reared in Steel, LLC 2018



Awards:

File 770 has the World Fantasy Winners. Congratulations to Victor LaValle and Fonda Lee; to Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Woldheim, and to startup Sf literary magazine Fiyah, which showcases the work of writers of the African diaspora.

Conven... Read More

La Belle Sauvage: Our different opinions

Readers’ average rating: 

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I always find it a little nerve-wracking when an author returns to a successful series after a long time away. There's always the fear, for me at least, that one of two things is going to happen: either the author will be nostalgic about the original work to the extent that s/he makes the new book into a fawning tribute without substance, or the author will have changed enough in the time between installments that the magic is just gone. I'm happy to say, though, that Philip Pullman's new novel dispels both of those fears. La Belle Sauvage (2017) is, though not quite as much a game-changer as The Golden ... Read More

Witch Creek: I was disappointed, but fans may love it

Readers’ average rating:

Witch Creek by Laura Bickle

I was disappointed in Laura Bickle’s 2018 contemporary fantasy Witch Creek. To be fair, this is the second book in a series and I haven’t read Nine of Stars. (There are also two prequels to this series.) It’s possible I would appreciate this book more if I knew more of the background.

Since I haven’t read Nine of Stars, I may give one or two mild spoilers for that book without realizing it.

Witch Creek opens with a powerful, shockingly realistic passage in which we see our protagonist, Petra Dee, in the aftermath of a chemo treatment for leukemia. The treatments have robbed her of her vitality. It’s unclear whether they are beating the disease. Petra decides to leav... Read More

WWWednesday: October 31, 2018

Awards:

Karen Lord has been named as one of the judges for the Commonwealth Award in 2019.

Conventions:

A few more details on the cancellation of Steamposium. And a new Steampunk resource, (new to me, anyway,) the Steampunk Explorer.

Books and Writing:


Happy Halloween!



Last week PBS unveiled America’s Favorite Book in the Great American Read; it was To Kill a Mocking... Read More

Age of War: Trudging to battle

Readers’ average rating:  

Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan

We (Tadiana and Marion) have both been reading THE LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series. Here, we take a few minutes to discuss the third book, Age of War. Tadiana: All the resentments, cruelties, conspiracies and ambitions that have been simmering since Age of Myth (and even before) boil over and explode in Age of War (2018), the third book in Michael J. Sullivan‘s LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series, a prequel series to both his RIYRIA CHRONICLES and RIYRIA REVELATIONS series. *Some spoilers for the first two books in this series follow* The Rh... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Scary Movies, Scary Scenes

Reading Sandy's Shocktober reviews got us talking about scary movies and scary scenes. We were trying to determine which was the scariest movie we'd ever seen.

Marion: The first movie scene I remember being scared by was the Flying Monkeys scene in The Wizard of Oz.(I think I'm not alone there.)

I was going to say that Aliens was the scariest movie I'd ever seen, and it is scary, but then I remembered 1963's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (The Haunting). The black-and-white film relied heavily on its excellent cast to create a sense of growing dread. That scene in Eleanor's and Theo's bedroom, where something is crying, and the camera stays trained on Eleanor's face… Eleanor is grateful that Theo is holding her hand, but Theo begins squeezing so hard it hurts… only it's not Theo! T... Read More

WWWednesday: October 24, 2018

Awards: 

N.K. Jemisin



The British Fantasy Awards were announced and winners include  Victor LaValle, N.K. Jemisin, Joe Hill, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda among others. 

Books and Writing:

This is one of the Read More

No Sleep Till Doomsday: This series fires on all cylinders

Readers’ average rating:

No Sleep Till Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

No Sleep Till Doomsday (2018), the third installment in Laurence MacNaughton’s DRU JASPER series, delivers all the excitement, action, romance and humor I expect from these books — plus, it brings in a new muscle-car who is an ancient rival of the speed-demon Hellbringer, and I’ve come to love Hellbringer.

Dru is a crystal sorceress in Denver, Colorado, who together with a group of allies is trying to stop the breaking of the seals on the Apocalypse Scroll and the resulting Doomsday. Dru is aided by her demonically possessed boyfriend Greyson, who drives Hellbringer; her friend Rane, who can turn herself into metal or stone; and her non-magical but knowledgeable store employee, Opal. She is somet... Read More

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave: A collection of Joe R. Lansdale’s favorites

Readers’ average rating:

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave by Joe R. Lansdale

See, here’s why I read Joe R. Lansdale; in Driving to Geronimo’s Grave (2018), there is a short story called “Wrestling with Jesus.” The story is about wrestling and male bonding. It’s violent. It’s gross and vulgar. The plot involves two men gambling over a woman. There are two women characters; one is weak and venial and the other is evil and manipulative. It has foul language. It’s funny. Generally, only “it’s funny” would even remotely attract me to a story like this, but “Wrestling with Jesus,” which follows the relationship of a lonely teenage boy and an octogenarian wrestler, is probably my favorite of this 2018 story collection.

Marvin, the teen boy in the story, is a target for bullies in hi... Read More

WWWednesday: October 17, 2018

Awards:

Maryse Conde was awarded the alt-Nobel this year. (Remember, this is the year of the Alternate Award. Here’s the recap.)

Turnip o' lantern.



Books and Writing:

This writer praises the photocopy and discusses digital books from the standpoint of economic equality in a country where books are prohibitively expensive.

I’d heard of Margaret Cavendish, but it’s odd that I’d never heard of The... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s your favorite SFF mashup?

I heard once that William Gibson coined the phrase “mashup,” but it turns out that may not be the case. 

The concept of mixing styles and genres may have come from the music scene and it has several fun names. Some of us are old enough to remember “sampling,” but two other newly discovered favorites of mine are “plunderphonics,” and “collage music” (collage as in the art form of assembling bits from other works).

In fiction, I think “mashup” took hold in the 1990s. Whatever it’s called, speculative fiction has always done it well. Originally, it was mostly copying; many early “space colonization” stories looked like Westerns, for instance. But now, SF-mysteries, fantasy-romance-horror, and “science fantasy” give readers a large smorgasbord of choices. You can read alternate-world novels that are practically LeCarre-style spy stories. Paranormal roman... Read More

WWWednesday: October 10, 2018

Awards:

The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association announced the Aurora awards on October 6. Fonda Yee won for Best Novel with Jade City and tied for best YA novel with Exo. File 770 has the full list.

Conventions:

Locus Magazine has a report on this year’s DragonCon.

The 13th Doctor with Companions Yaz (l) and Ryan (r) (c)BBC America 2018



Books and Writing:

An ancient library was unearthed in Cologne, Germany Read More

Rock Manning Goes for Broke: A strange and original tale by a brilliant writer

Readers’ average rating:

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders

The thing I loved the most about Rock Manning Goes for Broke, the 2018 novella by Charlie Jane Anders, is the narrative voce of Rock himself. Here are the opening lines:

Earliest I remember, Daddy threw me off the roof of our split-level house. “Boy’s gotta learn to fall sometime,” he told my mom just before he slung my pants seat and let me go.

That’s the flavor of this brief, fast-paced, action-packed dystopian, heroic dark comedy and kinda-love story.

Dad is not a psycho, or maybe he is, but he is also a stuntman, teaching his sons the trade. Rock gets older and enters school, where his class-clown antics bring him to the attention of the school bully, and also to the... Read More

WWWednesday: October 3, 2018

Scarecrow, (c) Garry Gay



Awards:

The Commonwealth Prize is currently open for unpublished short stories between 2500-5000 words for writers from Commonwealth countries. You may know (or be) someone who qualifies. I’m not one, but I’d love to read a story collection of the finalists.

New York state has named Colson Whitehead as their State Writer. He is the twelfth Writer of the State.

The Ringo Awards – not John Ringo, Mike Wieringo – Read More

SFM: Blackwell, Spires, Grizzle, Fox, Anderson

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly 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.

“Waves of Influence” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (2018, free at Clarkesworld magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Chenghui, a clever young Chinese woman, has committed fraud to win a contest to be trained by Meixiu, an internet sensation and social influencer. Chenghui’s sister, Yixuan, is a devoted fan of Meixiu, and is also slowly dying of a heart ailment. Chenghui reasons that if she can work her way into Meixiu’s inner circle, she can use her position to pretend to be Meixiu and send personalized messages to Yixuan, giving her the encouragement to keep fight... Read More

The Book of Hidden Things: Well, that was interesting

Readers’ average rating:

The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

Francesco Dimitri’s 2018 novel The Book of Hidden Things is one that I appreciated more than I liked. In fact, I had to think about it for a few days before I wrote this review, because I started seeing more positives in it upon reflection. This is because, despite the title and the packaging, I’m probably not the ideal audience for this book. In reading this review, understand that your mileage may vary.

The Book of Hidden Things takes place in Salento, where every year, on a specific day, four men gather at The American Pizza pizzeria. They made this Pact, to always meet on this day, when they were teenagers. This year, though, Arturo, who goes by Art, is missing. His three friends, Tony, Mauro and Fabio, embark on a search for him that leads them into madness, mysteri... Read More

WWWednesday: September 26, 2018

Awards:

Locus has the Man-Booker Prize short list.

Tananarive Due received the Octavia Butler Award.

Happy Autumn! Autumn Leaves, courtesy of Amazon



Conventions:

I don’t think this is behind a paywall; Amy Brennan writes about Nine Worlds, accessibility issues and the convention in general. The panel on “Cheese and Cheese” sounds funny.

Books and Writing:

Gary Trudeau Read More

Meddling Kids: The Scooby-Doo gang faces the Elder Gods

Readers’ average rating:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero 

“And I’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” –attributed to nearly every villain on Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo animated series, 1969-1971.

In the early 1970s, cartoon quintet Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Great Dane Scooby-Doo drove around in a painted van, solving supernatural mysteries — which always turned out to be staged by all-too-human villains. Edgar Cantero latched onto these cultural icons and flipped the script, asking the story what would happen if one of those ghostly, creepy, eerie creatures had not been human, after all.

Meddling Kids (2018) is set in 1990. In 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club, consisting of four young teens and a dog, solved the mystery of the Sleepy Lake Monster. The four youths were inseparable ... Read More

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