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: Favorite SFF Adaptations

Speculative fiction is a gold mine for content providers and streaming services. In the past ten years we’ve seen an explosion of adaptations of written-word works to the small screen in particular, and most particularly in the form of series.

The series almost never follows the book(s) exactly (movies don’t either) but the best of them capture the sensibility of the written story, and the characters.

Game of Thrones is probably the Monster King of this subgenre, but series like The Expanse and Outlander have done pretty well too.

Which is your favorite adaptation? Which adaptation are you most a... Read More

WWWednesday: January 22, 2020

Cons: 

Arisia 2020 went forward and File 770 provides some fun photos here. 

Books and Writing:

Via File 770, the Heinlein Scholarships program is open until April 1, 2020.

LitHub shares genuine pulp covers of classic literary works—at least they say they are genuine and, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I nearly fell over when I saw the Wuthering Heights cover, and then I got to Heart of Darkness.

Missouri has introduced legislation to create small groups of parents to Read More

The Starless Sea: Visually spectacular

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Given the success of her debut, it would be impossible to write about Erin Morgenstern's eagerly awaited follow-up without alluding to The Night Circus (2011). The bestseller accrued a mass following of 'Rêveurs' – the self-styled fanbase, named after the followers of the circus in the book. It inspired a formidable amount of tattoos and artwork on Pinterest, as well as being translated into thirty-seven languages, no less. It was always going to be a hard act to follow, but can Morgenstern live up to her own success?

The Starless Sea (2019) follows the tale of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, the son of... Read More

WWWednesday: January 15, 2020

Passing:

Mike Resnick passed away at the age of 77. His best-known book was probably Kirinyaga, but Wikipedia lists 69 books for him, including tie-ins and some mysteries. He won the Hugo and the Nebula in 1995 for his story “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” and a Hugo in 1991 for his novelette “The Monamouki.” Recently he edited Galaxy’s Edge. On Twitter, Tobias Buckell acknowledged Resnick as one of his Clarion teachers, a mentor and an inspiration.

File770 has an obituary.

Neil Peart, extraordinary drummer and the lyricist for Rush, passed away. John Scalzi added a Rush video to his blog in memoriam. Read More

An Unkindness of Magicians: Dark and brisk with lots of good visuals

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Wizard tournaments and wizard duels are standard fare in fantasy now, and Kat Howard puts the concept to good use in her fast-paced An Unkindness of Magicians. Published in 2017, the story follows a group of families based in Manhattan, who call themselves the Unseen World. They use magic to enrich themselves, gain power and ensure their comforts. Periodically, they engage in a magical struggle for control called the Turning, in which each family or House appoints a champion who duels other champions, often to the death. The House whose champion wins the tournament becomes the Head of the Unseen World until the next Turning, which is usually twenty years. When the book opens, the Turning has been announced seven years early, and two wild card champions are set to disrupt things in a big way.... Read More

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water: We are interested in what Kaftan does next

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a 2019 novella by Vylar Kaftan. The story opens with two characters, Bee, our narrator, and Chela, in jeopardy in a very unusual setting, and takes us places we did not expect.

Bee is trapped in a unique and horrifying prison: a cave complex on a planet far from Earth. She has one companion, Chela, and they have banded together to brave the dangers of the caves: the risk of drowning, narrow tunnels that could trap and suffocate a prisoner, deep shafts and large predatory insects. They have never seen another prisoner. The wardens leave boxes of goods with a guiding beacon for them to find. The boxes contain food and other necessary supplies, and sometimes a whimsical item like a postcard. It’s often a race to get to the boxes before the insects find them, and the boxes, their arbitrary placement and the str... Read More

An interesting word for Wednesday is the noun hibernaculum (hi-ber-nak-yoo-lum), meaning winter quarters or the den of a hibernating animal. I think I’ve used this word before, and probably right around this time of year.

Cons:

SWFA has put out a sampler of its programming examples for its Nebula Weekend, scheduled for May 28-31, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Is this a hibernaculum? (Image from Funny Cats.)



Books and Writing:

Right around Christmas, the Romance Writers Association (RWA) had a kerfuffle that escalated into a full meltdown. They tried to sanction a member, highly successful romance writer and former RWA board member for using Twitter to comment harshly on the stereotypical portra... Read More

Empress of Forever: Thrilling space opera, but it is science fiction?

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever (2019) is definitely space opera. In a far distant future, tech genius, entrepreneur and loner Vivian Liao travels from planet to planet and system to system trying to find an advantage in a losing war against an all-powerful space empress. Viv, who is plucked by that same empress out of her our-present-day life (and planned rebellion), draws to herself the usual strange pack of uneasy allies in this battle. The book is complicated, fascinating, fast-paced, and star-and-planet hopping. I’m not sure it’s science fiction.

Viv Liao is a titan of tech, a brilliant, quirky creator who has made billions of dollars and finally, become a threat to the wrong people. On the night of her birthday party she flees, enacting her own personal plan for a... Read More

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

“If you want to know history, read a book. If you want a story, take a tour.” — Christopher Skaife

The Ravenmaster was published in 2018. It’s nonfiction and it isn’t particularly about science, even the science of ravens. It’s got some history, some memoir, and some ghosts, but it isn’t about those things. I’m reviewing it here for one reason only: ravens.

Christopher Skaife, who authored The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London, is the Yeoman Warder of the Tower, and his first responsibility is caring for the seven ravens who currently inhabit the compound. He also, along with several other warders, gives tours to the public. Skaife has a YouTube presence and a twitter account (@ravenmaster1) if you want to see an... Read More

Fortress Frontier: A captivating adventure

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

It’s amazing how a main character can spoil a book. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is the second book in the SHADOW OPS series by Myke Cole. I didn’t like the first book, Control Point, very well because I loathed Oscar Britton, the main character. He offended my pride as a soldier. Yet I decided to try the second book and this time I have to give Myke Cole some real credit for giving me a reason not to hate his SHADOW OPS series.... his name is Alan Bookbinder.

Back in a 21st Century world that has experienced the return of magic, the US Army continues to run pretty much like it always has. There ar... Read More

WWWednesday: December 25, 2019

A joyous Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas to those who observe.

To those of you who don’t, have a very good week!

I’m posting a handful of videos. Four are musical and one is of fluffy arctic foxes.

The column will be on hiatus next week (January 1) but I will be back on January 8.

Happy New Year!

First up: Alison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma play The Wexford Carol.



Julie Geller performs a contemporary version of the classic Hanukkah hymn Al Hanisim.



From 2010, a flash mob performs the Halleluiah Chorus.



Itzhak Perlman plays Raisins and Almonds. This is slightly longer than five minutes.



Arctic foxes in the snow. Read More

The Labyrinth’s Archivist: A hero with a physical disability must prove herself

The Labyrinth’s Archivist by Day Al-Mohamed

Before I review The Labyrinth’s Archivist (2019), some disclosure. The author, Day Al-Mohamed, and I share a small press publisher, Falstaff Books, and we shared an editor. The Labyrinth’s Archivist shares a general theme with my novella and both are part of the press’s BROKEN CITIES line. I haven’t met Al-Mohamed and I get no compensation for reviewing the book. I bought the book on my own. If I hadn’t enjoyed it, I wouldn’t review it.

Azulea is the daughter of the Head Archivist and the granddaughter of a former one. She has a nearly perfect memory; she remembers anything she’s heard, tasted, smelled or felt. Azulea is prepared to continue the work of mapping the vast labyrinth of worlds, but she is visually impai... Read More

WWWednesday: December 18, 2019

Snowflake image by Udemy.



There is a word for the thing in fiction that I always called “The Twist.” It’s Peripeteia (Peri- peh-TAY-uh,) and it means a sudden change or also, a sudden fall.

Housekeeping:
There will be a brief column next week, December 25, and no column on January 1. The column will return on January 8, 2020.

Books and Writing:

Here is a quiz; match the lesser-known sequel to the famous book. I’m not going to tell you how very badly I did on this. (Spoiler alert: abysmally.)

Like many other small press endeavors, Fiyah Litmag is having trouble staying solvent. Fiyah is a great source of new fiction, especially new voices and writers of color... Read More

WWWednesday: December 11, 2019

For the holidays:

This 3 ½ minute video showcases the a capella group Straight No Chaser singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” and several other favorites.



Books and Writing:

Vonda McIntyre, who died earlier this year, has left her literary assets and a sizeable bequest to Clarion West.

SFWA named Lois McMaster Bujold as the latest Grandmaster.

Barnes and Noble went scything through their blogosphere, ending contracts with all of their freelance Fantasy and... Read More

Lies Sleeping: The newly-promoted wizarding detective returns

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant, our favourite semi-competent detective cum wizard-in-training, returns in Lies Sleeping (2018), the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON series. The Faceless Man has been unmasked and is on the run, and it is now up to Peter and the inimitable Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale (slash last officially sanctioned English Melvin the Wizard) to apprehend him.

(Fair warning: some spoilers for preceding books will follow.)

London is once more under threat and there can only be one man behind it. Readers will remember that the Faceless Man was finally unmasked as Martin Chorley, who, in tru... Read More

WWWednesday: December 4, 2019

An interesting word for Wednesday is horologium (hor-oh-LOGE-ee-yum) a noun meaning a time-keeping apparatus like a clock, sundial, etc, or a structure that supports a time-keeping piece.

Giveaway:

One commenter will get a copy of Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

John Hartness (l) and Melissa McArthur of Falstaff Books. And a shameless plug for Aluminum Leaves.



Conventions:

Last week I spent three days at AtomaCon in Charleston, South Carolina. This was a small convention, which I enjoy. I had a wonderful time! I’m going to plug some people. I tried a VR experience for the first time (undersea images) and I a... Read More

SHORTS: Cho, Machen, Rambo, Scalzi, Andrews

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've recently read that we wanted you to know about.

“Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon” by Zen Cho (2018, free on the author’s website)

This short story is a delightful sequel to Zen Cho's Hugo award-winning novelette, “If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again.” And both are free online, so win-win!

Jin-Dae is an imugi, a magical serpent that can — if it learns and grows in the right way — turn into a dragon. But Jin-Dae has no particular interest in becoming a dragon; she's just fine with her life the way it is. Except that there aren... Read More

WWWednesday: Evil on CBS

Next week the links will be back! This is my reaction to the early episodes of CBS's new supernatural thriller Evil.

Cast of Evil. (c) CBS 2019



Evil
10:00 pm Thursday
CBS

I didn’t think I was going to watch Evil until I saw that it starred not only Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Defenders) but Michael Emerson (Person of Interest, Lost). That casting made me think I’d give it a try. It’s not my favorite kind of story, and it’s on a network that tends to produce mainstream programming that is predictably black-and-white, with a lot of protagonist-centered morality (if our heroes want to do it, then it must be okay). Blue Bloods and a... Read More

Foxglove Summer: You can take the constable outta London, but…

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

One of the definitive aspects of Ben Aaronovitch's PETER GRANT series is the fact that it's set in the big smoke (aka London, for all you non-Londoners). So it may come as a surprise to discover that Foxglove Summer (2014), the fifth instalment of the series, is actually set in the countryside. But don't be fooled into thinking this is story about sleepy village life and the occasional nosy neighbour. Far from it. Peter Grant is back along with a myriad of supernatural problems, and he's just as incompetent as he's always been...

Two eleven-year-old girls have gone missing in the rural town of Leominster, Herefordshire. Constable Peter Grant is sent on a routine assignment to check up on an old ... Read More

Broken Homes: Changes the direction of the story

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant, mediocre policeman and inferior wizard, is back. Broken Homes (2013) is the fourth instalment of Ben Aaronvitch’s PETER GRANT series, and the detective returns with his love of acronyms and Red Stripe. Once more under the supervision of DCI Thomas Nightingale, Peter, Lesley and (the newly initiated) thirteen-year-old Abigail, must police the supernatural elements of London’s crime scene.

The story opens with a series of seemingly unconnected crimes: a car accident, a body half-buried in some scrubland, a suicide and the theft of a magic book from a home of a famous architect. And the missing link? The Faceless Man, of course, the other recurring character and supe... Read More

Laughter at the Academy: A must for ardent fans

Laugher at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

Laughter at the Academy
(2019) is Seanan McGuire’s first short story collection as Seanan McGuire (apparently there is a Mira Grant collection). McGuire is amazingly prolific, and this expensive Subterranean Press anthology showcases that. In her foreword, McGuire tells us that she chose these specific stories because she loves them the most. The contents were published between 2009 - 2017. They all take place outside her “pre-existing universes,” as she calls them, but there are resonances with October Daye, the Wayward Children, and others. The collection lets us see the issues that preoccupy McGuire in her writing.

Many (most) of these tales ended up in antho... Read More

WWWednesday: Emergence, on ABC

This is the first of two WWWednesday columns that will be single-subject instead of a links roundup. Next week, November 27, I'll give my reactions to the network TV show Evil.

Emergence



Emergence
ABC, Tuesdays, 10:00 pm
Science Fiction

I watched the first two episodes of ABC’s Emergence wondering exactly what kind of show it was, and I wasn’t alone in that. Twitter filled up with people tweeting, “It’s just like Stranger Things,” “Is it Fringe?” and so on. By Episode Three of the new series, the show revealed its true colors. It is not a Gifted Child in Jeopardy show, it’s not solely a Conspiracy show, and it’s not merely a family drama. It is actual science fiction.

 

This column will contain some spoilers – although it’s hard to say how spoilerish they are, when the show re... Read More

WWWednesday: November 13, 2019

This might be gallimaufry. Or it might be lamb stew, who knows?



Cool word for a Wednesday: gallimaufry (gall-uh-MAW-free); a noun meaning a jumble, a medley or a hodgepodge, or a spicy meat hash. (Isn’t that the planet Doctor Who came from?)

Housekeeping:

There will be no links columns on November 20 or November 27 because I will be out of town both weeks, but I will post a single-subject column on those dates.

Awards:

File 770 reported that the Sunburst Society, a Canadian society for the appreciation of science fiction, has suspended its Copper Cylinder award in 2019. They aren’t giving a reason at the moment.

Read More

Sabbath: It’s strange. It’s interesting.

Sabbath by Nick Mamatas

I don’t always agree with Nick Mamatas or his views on humanity, but I think he is one of the most interesting writers working right now, and Sabbath (2019), while it’s strange, is definitely interesting. The story behind the story is interesting and a little strange too. Sabbath (2019) is a novelization of a graphic novel called Sabbath: All Your Sins Reborn, by Matthew Tomao, which does not seem to be well known or much admired on the internet.

Mamatas writes a book that has some wonderful, hallucinatory prose, gallons of gore, a passel of severed heads, attack poodles, several actiony set-pieces and social observations as astringent as shot of cold gin. To crib a line from the Buffy-spinoff Angel, who doesn’t love... Read More

The Refrigerator Monologues: A herald of change?

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

In her Afterword, Catherynne M. Valente lays out the inspiration for 2017’s collection of linked short stories The Refrigerator Monologues. Valente was inspired partly by the work of comics writer Gail Simone, who created and popularized the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a way to describe women cape-and-mask heroes, and how they are treated in conventional comics. As for structure, Valente looked toward Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking theatrical work The Vagina Monologues. To no small extent, though, Valente was galvanized into writing this collection because of her anger at how Gwen ... Read More

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