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: April 26, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is the noun footstitch, which means a single footstep.

Award Winning Pub sign displays three varieties of Vulcan.



Awards:

The Hugo ballot has changed in the area of Best Fan Artist, when Alex Garner reported that his published 2016 work was professional art not fan art. Stephen Stiles is now on the ballot.

File770 also keeps track of the impact of the influence of the Rabid Puppies. They have updated their post here to allow for this new information. It’s clear that the RPs have trouble identifying eligible works.

The Hugo ballot packets are available. I got mine on Sunday.

Locus Read More

All the Birds in the Sky: A likeable fable about magic and science

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Katie's new review.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, is a likeable book. The writing is fluent, filled with grace notes, witty observations and jokes that poke fun, but gently, at certain subcultures and stereotypes — mostly, the ones we all enjoy mocking from time to time.

Furthermore, in her Afterword, Anders says that if you don’t understand the story, she will come to your house and “act the whole thing out for you. Maybe with origami finger puppets.” So there’s that.

All the Birds in the Sky is one of small, newish category of fiction, one I don’t have a label for. It includes Robin Sloan’s Mr. ... Read More

Agents of Dreamland: An atmospheric, disturbing tale of horror from space

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Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Caitlín R. Kiernan delivers another atmospheric, disturbing horror story with her novella Agents of Dreamland, published by Tor in 2017. Kiernan shifts between the tropes of secret agent thriller, creepy death-cult horror and Lovecraftian terror from space, as agents from two competing intelligence agencies try to parse a mass-murder atrocity that took place at Moonlight Ranch, on the banks of California’s Salton Sea.

Kiernan gets style points for including the Salton Sea. It’s a perfect metaphor for the idea of poisoned dreams and it functions well in this short work as an isolated place where a charismatic cult leader prepares his followers to be, well, I guess “transformed” would be the word.

The Sig... Read More

The Collapsing Empire: Entertaining setup for a new space opera series

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Marion Deeds: John Scalzi’s “brand” is generally known for thoughtful premises, fast-paced action and a humorous tone (certainly there are exceptions). The Collapsing Empire hits all the right Scalzi-notes: it provides a big problem that will have long-reaching influence on human society; it has smarter-than-average characters working to fix things; it has action, snark, and humor. While one storyline is resolved, somewhat, by the end of this book, what The Collapsing Empire does best is set up the problem and introduce characters for the rest of this series.

The Empire of the Interdependency spans many star systems, and is itself dependent on the Flow, an extra-dimensional field with “s... Read More

Voyage of the Basilisk: Science and curiosity

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Warning: Some inevitable spoilers for the previous novels, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, will follow.

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2015) is the third in Marie Brennan’s series A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, and I found it falling somewhere between books one and two in terms of the reading experiences (better than the first, but not quite as good as the second). As always in this series, the narrative voice is the strongest aspect and managed to (mostly) outweigh the book’s weaknesses.

Readers will most likely note the resemblanc... Read More

WWWednesday; April 19, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is a noun, zounderkite, which you may have heard if you watched Penny Dreadful. It means a person who does very stupid things; “Chester, you zounderkite, I said ‘Don’t push the big red button!’” The word is believed to be Germanic in origin and was popular in Victorian times. It looks like it would be a good Scrabble word.

Rain Puddles on Mendocino Headlands



Awards:

Courtesy of File 770, here are the winners of the British Science Fiction Awards. The winner for Best Novel was Europe in Winter by David Hutchinson.

The finalists for the Eugie Foster Award for short fiction were announced and include work from Alyssa Wong, Read More

Norse Mythology: A master storyteller relays the myths he loves

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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 this mythological cycle and tells us the tales of the beginnings of the Norse gods, all the way through to beyond their ending, the dre... Read More

WWWednesday; April 12, 2017

Awards:

China Mieville’s novella “This Census Taker”, which is nominated for a Hugo, is also nominated for the 2017 Rathbone Folio Prize, a literary award which celebrates “the best literature of our time, regardless of form.” Well!

Congratulations, Tennessee! You didn’t win an award, but you got an element named after you! So did Japan, Moscow and Yuri Oganessian. You can read the details here.

Books and Writing:

N.K. Jemisin reviews Read More

SFM: Mohamed, Goss, Tyson, Smith

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 



“Willing” by Premee Mohamed (2017, anthologized in Principia Ponderosa, $3.99 Kindle ebook)

“Willing” is set in a world that has pickup trucks, spaghetti and meatballs, ceramic heaters and gods that walk the earth. Gods demand sacrifices. When the gods help cattle rancher Arnold during a difficult calving season, they soon visit with an “invitation” to Arnold’s youngest child … and everyone knows what that means. Read More

Empire’s End: A satisfactory conclusion

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Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

In STAR WARS AFTERMATH: Empire’s End (2017), Chuck Wendig shows us the fateful battle on the desert planet Jakku; we see the Contingency left in place by Emperor Palpatine, and we discover that none of Leia and Han’s friends understands the concept of a baby gift.

The AFTERMATH trilogy starts immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star. Empire’s End follows Wendig-original characters Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, his crazed battle-droid Mr. Bones, a bounty hunter named Jas Emari and a turncoat Imperial loyalty officer named Sinjir, as they track Imperial war criminal Admiral Rae Sloane. We follow some canon-characters, too; Leia Organa, Han Solo and Mon Mothma primarily. (Chewbac... Read More

How reviewing for FanLit helped my writing career (Giveaway!)

Today we welcome back Dr. Kate Lechler who retired from FanLit so she could focus on her writing career.

I'm a writer and a teacher. By day, I teach English literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS, and at night, I write about genetically engineered dragons and unicorns. My work has appeared in Podcastle, Metaphorosis, and Arsenika, and is forthcoming from Superstition Review. From 2014-2016, I reviewed SFF for FanLit but in December I retired so I could concentrate on my fiction. But nobody writes in a vacuum, and I... Read More

WWWednesday; April 5, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is the noun blether-head, which means a noisy fool. I think you can make it a modifier too, as in “blether-headed nonsense,” which might be redundant.

Awards:

The 2017 Hugo Awards shortlist is out. I am disappointed by one terrible oversight; City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett is not on the short list for novel. That is a crime. Otherwise, I think it’s a good list.



Here are the finalists for Best Novel:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor) Read More

SFM: Emrys, Edelstein, Goss, Forrest, Yang, Kinney, Deeds

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of  free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 



The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys (2014, free on Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Aphra Marsh lives in San Francisco, listening to the sounds of the sea and relishing freedom after spending years in an American internment camp. Her crime: belonging to a peculiar heritage, a dark legacy, and a little New England town called Innsmouth. World War II is over, now, and Aphra wo... Read More

WWWednesday: March 29, 2017

Today’s word for Wednesday is the noun poltroon, meaning coward. Its origins appear to be Middle French and/or Middle Italian. It may be descended from a Middle French world for a foal or a baby animal (implying frailty and skittishness?) It first appeared about 1520. It is not to be confused to pontoon, which is a floating structure or part of a seaplane.

Awards:

This is from February: Charlie Jane Anders won the Crawford Award at this year’s International Conference for the Fantastical in the Arts (ICFA), for All the Birds in the Sky.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett



New Releases:

Here are some books we’re excited ... Read More

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union: How can one resist?

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

[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.]

Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is (breathe in) an alternate history science fiction noir police procedural that won plaudits from the literary mainstream as well as several top honors from the science fiction community (breathe out).

There’s a great deal going on, but perhaps it’s best to introduce the setting. In this alternate history, America created a temp... Read More

SFM: Barthelme, McGuire, Hurley, Wong, Vaughn, Anders, Headley, Shawl, Bolander, Walton, El-Mohtar, Valente, Dick

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Report” by Donald Barthelme (1967, originally published in the New Yorker, free at Jessamyn.com (reprinted by permission), also collected in Sixty Stories)
“Our group is against the war. But the war goes on. I was sent to Cleveland to talk to the engineers. The engineers were meeting in Cleveland. I was supposed to persuade them not to do what they were going to do.”
“Report,” by Donald Barthelme, was published in the New Y... Read More

The Wrong Dead Guy: The crispest comic dialogue I’ve read in a long, long time

Readers’ average rating:

The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey

Even if Richard Kadrey’s The Wrong Dead Guy (2017) didn’t have an elephant, a library and a grumpy mummy, I would love it for the comedic dialogue. This book has some of the crispest comic dialogue (not just banter) I’ve read in a very long time, maybe ever.

The Wrong Dead Guy is the second book in Kadrey’s ANOTHER COOP HEIST series. Cooper, who goes by Coop, is a thief specializing in magical items. He is immune to magic, which also means that he cannot wield it. His girlfriend Giselle, who works for the Department of Peculiar Science (DOPS), does use magic though, and sometimes Coop works with a ghost named Phil, who rides in Coop’s head during the heist.

Right now,... Read More

Battle Hill Bolero: A satisfying conclusion to an important series

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Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older

Battle Hill Bolero (2017) is the concluding novel in Daniel José Older’s BONE STREET RUMBA trilogy of urban fantasy novels set amid the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, NY. While not as strong as the preceding novels, Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) and Midnight Taxi Tango (2016), Battle Hill Bolero does deliver on what Older does best: vibrant and diverse characters, a multi-cultural and multi-faceted city that fully comes to life, and a hefty dose of righteous indignation. Bear in mind that this... Read More

WWWednesday; March 22, 2017

According to Haggard Hawks, the same way a flock of crows is called a murder, the poetic term for a group of salamanders is a maelstrom. And you can find many more cool collective nouns for animal groups here.

Awards:

This year’s Tiptree Award went to Anna-Marie McLemore for When the Moon was Ours.

Independent horror publisher Word Horde had a very good day at the This is Horror awards. John Langan’s The Fisherman Read More

The Evil Wizard Smallbone: Young readers will love this funny, exciting fantasy

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The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

What is it about Maine? Stephen King and John Connolly both write terrifying horror stories set there, and Delia Sherman places The Evil Wizard Smallbone, a middle-grade fantasy published in 2016, in Maine in the winter. That state must have a lot of magical juice.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone not only shares the horror of a Maine winter, it’s got an evil wizard, shape-shifting coyote-bikers, a small and somewhat magical town called Smallbone Cove whose residents have forgotten their own strange history to their peril, and a scrappy boy named Nick who stumb... Read More

Passing Strange: Simply irresistible

Readers’ average rating:

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages’ short novel Passing Strange (2017) is a beautiful, fantastical melding of history, romance, magic and revenge, set against a meticulously researched San Francisco of 1940. At just over 200 hundred pages, the story follows six women in the city, each one in some way an outcast. Add a present-day story frame that includes secret passages in Chinatown, pulp magazine covers of the 1940s, and an elaborate scam, and for many of us you have something irresistible.

I loved Passing Strange from the cover by Gregory Manchess. That wistful moonlit scene is central to the story in more than one way. Take a moment to study that cover before you open the book, and then, when you’ve finished, feel free to go back and savor it some more.

In the present day, Helen Young, a ... Read More

Black City Demon: This creepy, magical Prohibition-era Chicago comes to life

Readers’ average rating:

Black City Demon by Richard A. Knaak

Black City Demon (2017) is the second BLACK CITY SAINT adventure of 1930s ghost-hunter Nick Medea, who is really Georgius, or Saint George, and who is sixteen hundred years old. Currently living in Chicago, Nick, who is also the guardian of the Gate between our realm and Faerie, combats human evil and the worst of the Faerie influences that come through the Gate. He has very few people he considers friends, but several allies he can’t completely trust... and a strong, beautiful woman who is the current incarnation of the princess he loved when he was Georgius.

Richard A. Knaack’s historical urban fantasy series delves into the history of Chicago and provides a different spin. In Read More

A Criminal Magic: Suspenseful plot, great descriptions of magic

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

In A Criminal Magic, Lee Kelly creates a world in which the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1919, banned sorcery rather than alcohol. Kelly combines remarkable creativity, imagination, and insight into the human condition, blending fantasy with history and ending up with a complex, entertaining, compelling novel.

Naturally, the passage of A Criminal Magic’s fictional amendment results in the same response as its historical analogue: sorcerers are thrust into the criminal underworld, brewing an illegal ruby-red elixir. This “shine,” as it’s known, is smuggled by gangsters into “shining rooms” across the country, fronted by legal liquor bars and raided by members of the Federal Prohibition Unit who... Read More

WWednesday; March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day.

This week’s word for Wednesday is panchreston, a noun that can mean an answer so vague, generalized and all-encompassing it provides no answer at all, or a panacea, something meant to “cure all ills.”

Books and Writing:

Today Tor.com is providing a collection of short fiction based on the theme “Nevertheless she persisted.” Politics-watchers, feminists and people on Twitter will recognize the now-famous words applied to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Thanks to Terry Weyna.

Unbound Worlds Cage Match 2017



Unbound Worlds has opened its annual Cage Match, a bracket contest featuring science fiction versus fantasy characters. Writer... Read More

The Fuse: The Russia Shift (Giveaway!)

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The Fuse (Vol. 1): The Russia Shift by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

(No spoilers, but this review is also a Giveaway. I met Justin Greenwood, who draws The Fuse and got a signed copy of this collection, which one random commenter with a USA mailing address will get.)

The Fuse: The Russia Shift is Volume One in the collection of this comics science fiction police procedural series, set on a space station orbiting earth. The Russia Shift introduces us to our two cops; Ralph Dietrich, just arrived from Earth, and his more experien... Read More

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