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.

Tales from a Talking Board: Is anyone here? Read along and see.

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Tales from a Talking Board edited by Ross Lockhart

Tales From a Talking Board (2017) delivers fourteen shivery stories that involve spirit boards. In the US, we think of them as Ouija Boards, but that was actually a brand name; spirit boards, which involve a surface with the alphabet and an object that glides over it, stopping at letters, have been around quite a while.

This anthology has plenty to please people who like the creepy, and lends itself to a dark autumn night pretty well. Some stories are more gory than others. At least one is flat-out funny. A few tales strain to wrap themselves around the spirit board and at least one has no divinatory prop at all.

I’ll talk about the stories I liked best or found noteworthy. Here is the complete Table of Contents from Tales from a Talking Board:

“YesNoGoo... Read More

The Stone Sky: An Earth-shattering finale

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Reposting to include Jana and Marion's conversation about The Stone Sky.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The climactic conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy, The Stone Sky (2017), has expectations erupting into the stratosphere since both the previous books, The Fifth Season (2015) and The Obelisk Gate (2016), captured the Hugo Awards for Best SF Novels of 2015 and 2016, and these wins were well deserved. Having just finished it, I think THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy is one of the most intelligent, emotionally-... Read More

WWWednesday: October 18, 2017

Cat Pumpkin



Word for Wednesday:

According to Haggard Hawks, the noun trollock is old English for a worn our coat or garment. This word has also been appropriated to refer to certain behavior on the internet, as in, “Save your trollocking for those who haven’t read it a million times.”

Donations:

Northern coastal California is facing the most destructive set of wildfires in our history. In Sonoma County, where I live, 19% of the population has been displaced, at least temporarily, by the fires. The Red Cross (of course) will accept donations. If, like me, you prefer to donate to local groups when you can, the Redwood Empire Credit Union has a fund for victims of fires in Mendocin... Read More

The Fall of the Kings: This book vanished like a ship in the Bermuda triangle, and I think I know why

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The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman

Ellen Kushner published Swordspoint in 1986. It gathered a swarm of fans who loved the prose, the magicless world with its glittering veneer and cloak-and-dagger intrigue, and the love story at its center. Readers clamored to know more of steadfast, enigmatic swordsman Richard St.Vier and his lover, the brilliant, neurotic noble Alec Campion.

In 2003, Ellen Kushner, writing with Delia Sherman, published The Fall of the Kings. Although it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award and a Locus Award, The Fall of the Kings... Read More

Ruin of Angels: Gods, sisterhood and venture capitalism collide

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Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

Ruin of Angels, published in 2017, is Max Gladstone’s sixth book in the CRAFT series. This story follows Kai, a priestess we met in Full Fathom Five. Kai is a, well, a “venture priestess.” She creates internal spiritual spaces for clients, and invests in projects that reach into the metaphysical — as everything in this world does. A project has brought her to Agdel Lex, a modern city nested in the time and space of Alikand and a dead city as well, while outside the squid-powered protection of Agdel Lex, starving remnants of half-dead gods ravage anyone who tries to enter the Wastes. Kai’s sister, Ley, an artist, suddenly approaches... Read More

White Cat: A YA series with an interesting magic system

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (2010), the first book in Holly Black's The Curse Workers series, focuses on Cassel, a teenage boy born into a family of workers. Working magic is illegal, which means anyone born with the gift — his entire family — either works for the mob or as a con artist. Except Cassel, that is, because Cassel doesn’t have a gift. What he does have is strange dreams that make him sleepwalk, and end up in the strangest places, like on top of the dorms at his boarding school. If only he could figure out what was causing these dreams, he knows he would be okay. But what’s causing the dreams is even scarier than what is in them.

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WWWednesday; October 11, 2017

Awards:

Kazuo Ishiguro has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Somtow Sucharitkul received the 2017 European Award for Cultural Achievement. Somtow began his career as a science fiction writer and has gone on to compose, conduct and direct.

Beauty and the Beast cosplayers, New York ComicCon (c) Mashable.com



N.K. Jemisin won the Sputnik Award this year. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but I read the announcement, and then I read the FAQs and fell over laughing. I hope you will too.

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David Walton answers 3 Big Questions, and gives away THE GENIUS PLAGUE!

David Walton’s latest book is The Genius Plague, about humanity’s struggle against colonization, not by extraterrestrials but by a common earthly entity. (You can read our review here.) Marion asked Walton three quick questions about his book, and his answers are entertaining and intriguing. Three random commenters with US or Canadian addresses will win a copy of The Genius Plague.

Marion Deeds: I really enjoyed The Genius Plague. Fungi are certainly fascinating and you managed to make the premise here plausible. What was your inspiration? And what sources did you use to develop your fictional (I hope) mycelium?

David W... Read More

Expanded Universe: HawaiiCon 2017 Overview

This year’s HawaiiCon offered an array of events in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. We'd like to share our thoughts on the convention, with input from Fred White who was a presenter and is Terry’s husband.

Marqueeda LaStar of Black Girl Nerds



Marion: Marqueeda LaStar of Black Girl Nerds interviewed Nnedi Okorafor. They started off with the acerbic observation that after publishing for more than ten years, Okorafor is now an “overnight success” with HBO’s acquisition of her novel Who Fears Death. “After a lengthy career, you’re suddenly brand now because HBO picked you up,” LaStar said.

Okorafor’s path to writing success is not the common one. “I didn’t know I... Read More

The Privilege of the Sword: Enjoy another visit to Riverside

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

“Whatever the duke means to do with her, it can’t be anything decent.”

The Privilege of the Sword is Ellen Kushner’s sequel to her novel Swordspoint which was about the doings of the high and low societies in her fictional town of Riverside. The main characters of that novel were the nobleman Alec Tremontaine, a student, and his lover, the famous swordsman Richard St. Vier. You don’t need to read Swordspoint before reading The Privilege of the Sword, but it will probably be more enjoyable if you do because you’ll have some background on most of the characters.

Now Alec is known as the Mad Duke Tremontaine. He spends some of his time in his mansion outside the city, but he really prefers to reside in hi... Read More

WWWednesday; October 4, 2017

Our prayers and love are with the people of Las Vegas.



Tribute:


We all know what the candle is for. Every day, I try to use my words to persuade, to heal and to help, but in the face of so much violence I can’t find any words right now. I will let this image speak for my heart.

Books and Writing:

The British Fantasy Awards were announced last weekend. The Best Fantasy Novel was The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikowsky, Best Novella was “The Ballad of Black Tom” by Victor LaValle, Best non fiction “Geek Feminist Revolution” by Ka... Read More

The Genius Plague: The mycelium strikes back

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The Genius Plague by David Walton

Fungi are fascinating, successful, scary organisms, and in the past several years speculative fiction writers have been making the most of them. David Walton steers away from the brooding, surreal and creepy approach to fungi others have chosen in favor of straight-up science fiction adventure in his 2017 novel The Genius Plague. An outbreak of a fungal infection leaves the survivors smarter, more visionary… and fully loyal to mycelia. Soon a greenhorn NSA codebreaker is fighting to save humanity and his own family.

The Genius Plague wastes no time getting us into the action as Paul Johns, a young mycologist, heads home from a field trip collecting specimens in the Amazon basin. The riverboat he catches back to ... Read More

WWWednesday; September 27, 2017

Conventions:

Nnedi Okorafor, Writer Guest of Honor,who is NOT George R.R. Martin, and who never takes a bad picture.



HawaiiCon was held on the big island of Hawai’i, September 14-18. The theme was “Slayer Wars,” which sounds odd, but it allowed the planning board to celebrate both the 50th year of Star Wars and the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Charisma Carpenter, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield and Amber Benson all attended to represent the BTVS contingent, while Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett) and Temeura Morrison (Jango Fett) were there from Star Wars. Your humble correspondent and our own Terry Weyna also participated, mostly on writing track panels. ... Read More

She Said Destroy: A good introduction to Bulkin’s beautiful, creepy prose

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She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

Nadia Bulkin’s horror stories are surreal, subversive, often political. 2017’s short story collection She Said Destroy offers 13 stories, some set in our world, some set in worlds almost exactly like ours and some set in strange, feverish landscapes unlike what we’ve seen before.

“Intertropical Convergence Zone” and “Red Goat, Black Goat,” are set in an imaginary country that looks more than a bit like Indonesia. (Bulkin writes many stories set in this place.) “Intertropical Convergence Zone” follows the country’s dictator, the General, as he ingests more and more magic. In the opening passages, he eats a bullet — literally. He eats a bullet that was used to shoot a man in the heart; it protects the General from bullets. The narrator, a faithful member of the inner circle, distrusts the dukun... Read More

SFM: Marshall, Campbell, McBride, Hawthorne

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. 


“Red Bark and Ambergris” by Kate Marshall (Aug. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies99c Kindle magazine issue)

Sarai is forcibly taken from her paradisiacal island home by the queen’s men when they discover that the young girl has the magical ability of a scent-maker, one who can concoct fragrances that will powerfully affect people, evoking memories and calling forth emotions. She is sent to live permanently o... Read More

WWWednesday; September 13, 2017

Obituary:

Jerry Pournelle, probably best known for his collaborations with Larry Niven, passed away on September 8. In addition to well-known books with Niven, Pournelle wrote a few by himself, and collaborated with writers like Michael Flynn, Dean Ng and S.M. Stirling. In later years, Pournelle shone as an editor, with anthologies like There Will Be War. SFWA’s obituary column can be found here. Cata Rambo, SFW... Read More

The Courier: Nice action sequences but unconvincing world building

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The Courier by Gerald Brandt

The Courier (2016) was recommended to me by a bookseller. She hadn’t read it herself yet. It was recommended to her by a friend, she said, who said it was YA and “kind of like William Gibson.” My first impulse in rating this book was to base my rating on the gap between the “William Gibson” statement and my experience of the book. If I had done that, this would be a 2-star review. That would not be fair. Nothing on the cover or interior review snippets compares this book to Gibson.

I am going to review The Courier based on the story I think Gerald Brandt was trying to tell. Although it has a youthful protagonist, the book is marketed as cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic fiction. YA or not, I think this... Read More

The Black Wolves of Boston: Complex and funny new series perfect for late-teens

The Black Wolves of Boston by Wen Spencer

Joshua is a teen runaway; a college-bound senior who survived a horrifying massacre of his classmates during an extracurricular project. Silas Decker is a vampire who lives in Boston, one who has the magical ability to find lost things – and people. Seth is the werewolf Prince of Boston. Elise comes from the Grigori family, who trace their bloodline back to the first angelic-human hybrids. She kills things — mostly, evil things. These four characters find their paths intersecting and tangling in The Black Wolves of Boston, the first book in a new urban fantasy series by Wen Spencer.

The hardcover edition of this Baen publication, issued in 2017, has illustrations by Kurt Miller. They add a lovely touch although the book does not depend on the artwork. Spencer’s story is complicated, and many, many characters are introduced, particularly among the various wer... Read More

WWWednesday; September 6, 2017

Today’s word for Wednesday is neocracy, a noun, meaning a government of amateurs.

Awards:

The Dragon Awards were announced on Sunday, September 3, at DragonCon. Here are the winners. Congratulations to James S.A. Corey, Victor LaValle, Larry Corriea and John Ringo, Rick Riordan, Read More

WWWednesday; August 30, 2017

Reflections off Lake Tjornin, also called The Pond, in downtown Reykjavik.



This week’s word for Wednesday is Brennivin, an unsweetened Icelandic schnapps flavored with caraway that is considered the country’s signature beverage. It’s is marketed in the US as akavit. I’d like to say that after today there will be no more Icelandic words, but I can’t guarantee that. 

Earth:

This may be outdated by the time the column is posted, but this site allows people to donate diapers to families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Diapers are not considered an emergency supply and generally not provided by government or non-profit emergency relief groups.

The Continental Rift, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are moving apart at the ra...

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The Chimes: Immerse yourself in a dark, beautiful world filled with music

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The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Anna Smaill’s debut fantasy novel The Chimes won the World Fantasy Award in 2016. It became available in the USA in 2017. The Chimes is a dark and beautiful fantasy that is filled with music.

After the death of his parents, Sebastian leaves his home and travels to London. His mother has sent him, with her dying words, to find a woman named Molly. Sebastian has the clothes on his back and a knapsack filled with objectmemories. These objectmemories are important, because in Sebastian’s world, each day is just like the last, and every night when they sleep, people leave behind their memories. Every morning, the melody rings that through the world, Onestory, returns certain memories to people, and at vespers the Chimes plays, a majestic piece of music that seems to remove the memories of the day... Read More

WWWednesday: August 23, 2017: The WorldCon 75 Edition

This week’s word for Wednesday: Opid Alla Daga (the “d” in “opid” has a barred tail) means “Open every day” in Icelandic. Kaestur Hakarl is a traditional Icelandic food, served since around the year 1000, that consists of putrefied, dried Greenland shark. I wouldn’t call it a “delicacy.” It’s more of a tradition, or maybe a dare.

Obituary:

Rest in peace, Brian Aldiss. (Thanks to Kat.)

Giveaways:

Giveaways are now current through August 17. I just want to note for the record that I go away for two weeks and my Fanlit colleagues schedule 175 giveaways! Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

WorldCon:

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The Changeling: A rich dark fairy tale for the Information Age

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Reposting to include Ray's new review.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

“How do we protect our children?" Cal said quietly.
Apollo watched the soft little shape in his hand. "Obviously I don’t know."


Victor LaValle’s novel The Changeling (2017) is a five-star book, one of the year’s best. I predict this thoughtful modern dark fantasy novel — or it might be horror — will be shortlisted on several awards and Best Of lists.

LaValle takes the tropes of traditional middle European fairy tales and blends them perfectly with a view of modern living, specifically modern living in New York City. He uses this blend to explore the terrifying state of ... Read More

The Golem and the Jinni: A magical mural of the immigrant experience

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Reposting to include Ray's new review.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

A Genie. A golem. Nineteenth-century New York City. Boy, did I want to love this book. Drawn by its come-hither characters, its promise of poetry, and by its dark side in the form of a truly nasty character, I really, really wanted to love it. And truth is, I liked The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. But in the well-trod words of middle school, I didn’t “like like” it. Oh, it was fun, it made me smile sometimes and think sometimes and feel a bit sad at other times. I enjoyed hanging out with i... Read More

WWednesday: August 2, 2017

Obituaries:

“Again? That trick never works!” The actor who voiced Rocket J Squirrel (Rocky and Bullwinkle), Natasha Badinoff, and many other famous cartoon characters, June Foray, passed away last week . She was 99 years old. She will live on the hearts of all of us who love the adventures of Moose and Squirrel.

Playwright Sam Shepherd also passed away this week.

Awards:

Colson Whitehead’s novel Underground Ra... Read More

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