World Wide Websday: April 16, 2014

Happy day after tax day! I hope your April 15 was relatively painless, and maybe even happy as you discovered a lovely refund coming your way. And what better to spend it on than books? Nothing, I say: nothing. Just pick something from the most recent awards, for instance, and you’ll have hours of joy in exchange for your bills and coins. What could be better than that?

Awards News

The Aurealis Awards have been announced, celebrating the best in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. Here’s hoping most of these books ultimately get outside the bounds of that splendid isle, so that we can all enjoy them! Some, like Max Barry’s Lexicon (best science fiction novel) and Joanne Ande... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, April 2014

Issue 91 of Clarkesworld opens with “Passage of Earth” by Michael Swanwick. Swanwick is one of my favorite authors when he’s not writing about talking dogs, and this is not a Darger and Surplus story, so I was already inclined to like it. Hank, the protagonist, is the county coroner in a small rural community. One morning, in the wee small hours, an ambulance brings a Worm to his morgue, and Evelyn, a member of the (unidentified) Agency who also happens to be his ex-wife, instructs him to perform an autopsy. The anatomy of the creature, a member of the only other intelligent species in the universe that humans have yet encountered, is so completely different from that of humans that humans don’t know how to combat them — assuming combat is necessary, and the humans appear to be spoiling for war. It’s a tale of interspecies conflict writ small, but with such imagination that the Wor... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare, March 2014

Issue 18 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “Have You Heard the One about Anamaria Marquez?” by Isabel Yap. The story is narrated by Mica, a fifth grade student at St. Brebeuf’s, a private school in Manila, the Philippines, but her narration is interrupted occasionally with different iterations of the supernatural, horrific fate of Anamaria Marquez, who once was also a student at St. Brebeuf’s. Depending on what version of her life and death you believe, she was raped, killed and hidden in a tree on the school grounds; locked in a bathroom by a school bully, where she drowned herself; or another half dozen possibilities. In any case, some believe she haunts the school. Home economics teachers who prattle on about opening their third eyes tend to encourage the students in their superstitious fears. The atmosphere of the upcoming school fair is heightening those feelings, as the fifth graders’ part in the fair is to create a haunted house. The flaring emotion... Read More

Horrible Monday: A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough

A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough makes it clear from the first page of her prologue in A Matter of Blood that we’ll be seeing plenty of blood — and worse. The novel opens on the scene of a corpse squirming with maggots. An unnamed man stands in the doorway and declares that “This has to stop,” but the noise of the flies only grows louder. It seems, though, that the man is talking to someone — not to the corpse, not to himself, not even to the flies, though maybe he is speaking to someone through the flies. And maybe, we think, we’re on to something with that last thought, because as the speaker continues, the flies gather together and form into a shape that is nearly human.

It’s the last glimpse of the supernatural we get for a long time, though. Instead, Pinborough’s novel r... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 142 and 143

Issue 142 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a special double issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 2, which, according to the magazine’s website, features “stories that combine the awe-inspiring fantastical settings of BCS fiction with futuristic details like spacecraft, laser rifles, and advanced scientific concepts.” It makes for the best issue of the magazine so far in 2014.

“The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard takes place at the end, or at least near the end, of a war, on Voc, the planet on which the story is set. The characters in the story do not appear to be human. Rechan, the viewpoint character, is pregnant, and she and her family are engaged in their usual spring migration to the mountains. But their flyer breaks down and strands them halfway up the mountain, and finding repairs or a replacement is difficult. Rechan must meet up... Read More

Magazine Monday: Lackington’s, Issue One

Issue One of Lackington’s begins with “A Long Foreword with a Long Title to Introduce Our Fond New Venture.” There’s a good reason for such a foreword: Lackington’s contains prose that is unlike that to be found in any other speculative fiction magazine. The magazine isn’t interested in telling stories, as such, but in beautiful prose with a speculative bent. “[Y]ou may find the odd slice-of-life vignette in these pages, or the odd meandering reflection, and you will find a lot of prose poetry, or at least prose written by those who are poetically inclined, because aesthetics matter here,” writes the editor, Ranylt Richildis, as if prose and aesthetics are of no concern to those who are interested in plots. Perhaps I should have taken the foreword as a warning and ceased reading immediately, for I found the offerings largely opaque and far too precious for my taste.

Richildis also mentions in her foreword that the pieces... Read More

Horrible Monday: Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas

Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas

Jeffrey Thomas’s new novella, Red Cells, is set in his PUNKTOWN universe full of mutants, odd species, and humans, and the good, bad and ugly of each.  Red Cells deals more with the ugly:  Edwin Fetch has earned himself a six month term in the penitentiary for possession with intent to sell purple vortex. Specifically, he’s to be shipped to the Trans-Paxton Penitentiary, known to its inmates as the Wormhole, a transdimensional prison carved out of the planes between existence. But Fetch has a better idea. He hires Jeremy Stake, a mutant whose condition is called Caro turbida, to serve the time for him. Stake’s mutation allows him to assume the shape of another if he concentrates hard enough on it, and Stake has had a tattoo of Fetch (holding a gorgeous woman for verisimilitude) inked on his arm to keep him focused. Stake is a former soldier in the Blue War, which ended fift... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, January and February 2014

The January 2014 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death” by Adam Howe. Gibbons is the proud owner of Eddie Gein’s car, a genuine relic of the murder on which Alfred Hitchcock based his movie Psycho. Gibbons has a carnival show built around the car, a regular “Disneyland from hell,” and he can’t figure why it isn’t the huge success he expected when he spent his inheritance from his mother on the thing. But not only don’t people flock to see his show with a two-bit carnival traveling from town to town; he is frequently shut down by the local police in response to a citizenry that finds his show too grotesque. And the rest of the carnies don’t like the police nosing around, because there’s a lot going on behind the tents that the cops shouldn’t know about. Even though the carny is all Gibbons has ever known, it looks like he’s not going to last more than another town or two before this... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 55 and 56

The most recent two issues of Apex Magazine give us a chance to say goodbye to one editor and hello to the next, and offer an interesting contrast between two strong voices.

Issue 55 is Lynne M. Thomas’s last issue of the 26 she has edited. It is a strong issue, with stories that are beautifully angry — at disease, at societal expectations, at clichés.

The first story, “What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley, is about the losses everyone suffers when a man is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. Joe has been caught eating Proust, dipping the pages into his tea and devouring them. His wife, Bette, is enraged, because when they were first married he had said he’d sooner walk into the snow shoeless than live without the full use of his brain. Now Joe not only doesn’t remember that, he doesn’t even remember ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014

“In Her Eyes” by Seth Chambers is the novella in the January/February 2014 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and it’s a doozy. It’s one of a number of stories and movies I’ve seen lately that address the question of what it is we love when we love someone. Do we love a mind? A body? Both together? Must they be unchanging? They can’t, really, can they, because we all age and grow; change is actually the only constant. And the question goes deeper, to the nature of the mind as an organic, chemical, electrical entity. Chambers examines all of these questions in a love story about a man and an unusual woman; I won’t say more so that you can discover her secrets for yourself (and she is very secretive).

There are five novelettes in this issue. The first is “The New Cambrian” by Andy Stewart, a science fiction tale about an expedition to Europa to study life beneath the surface of the iced-over water world. As... Read More

Horrible Monday: Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden

Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden

Christopher Golden explains in his introduction to Dark Duets that writing is a solitary occupation right up until that moment an alchemical reaction takes place and a bolt of inspiration simultaneously strikes two writers who are friends. Golden has found that the results of collaboration are often fascinating and sometimes magical, as when Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to write The Talisman. Writing is an intimate, very personal process, Golden says, and finding someone to share it with is difficult but exciting. Golden therefore undertook to create a book full of such diffi... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Winter 2014

The Winter 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine was edited by guest editor Jonathan Strahan, the editor of a popular year’s best anthology and a number of other anthologies. He has good taste, as the stories chosen for this issue demonstrate — with the exception of the longest and last piece, a snarky bit of irreligious, virtually plotless prose by Bruce Sterling (about which more below).

“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason is structured as a fairy tale often is, with three daughters each setting out on an errand prescribed by their father. This father wants his daughters to be writers of stories, a goal of his own he has never achieved because, he thinks, he lacks the divine spark necessary to such an endeavor. When his daughters are grown, he takes them to a famous critic, who reads their stories, which they had written reluctantly, fearing th... Read More

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth

The first 65 pages of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth is a fascinating “biography” of the titular doctor, a man who believed that the creatures of mythology actually existed at one time and could be reborn into our world with the proper surgical technique. It’s a tragic tale of a medical prodigy who had already completed medical school with high honors at the age of 20. Black was a man of intense curiosity who reveled in dissecting every type of animal, including humans (which he had dug up from their graves for his father’s scientific work when he was a child, hence the “resurrectionist” label). But his curiosity took a tragic turn when he began his work of recreating mythological creatures, starting with the grafting of wings onto his beagle. His brother describes the scene in his journal, making one remarkable... Read More

A Dance of Cloaks: Strong plotting

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Thren Felhorn is the master of the Spider Guild, the supreme collective under which Thren has united all the thieves’ guilds in the city of Veldaren. In the prologue of A Dance of Cloaks, author David Dalglish has given Thren two sons, Randith and Aaron, and placed the guilds on the brink of war with the Trifect, three wealthy families that wield most of the political power in a land where the king is young, foolish and easily manipulated. By the end of the prologue, though, only Aaron can claim his father’s favor, which he gains by one clearly filial act and one shocking act that is the act of a son only because his father ordered it. The brutal flavor of this book is thus established quickly and efficiently, and the reader knows that she is in for a story of ruthless people.

Five years have passed since the events of the prologue when the body of the book opens. Aaron is in traini... Read More

Magazine Monday: Asimov’s, February 2014

The first of three novelettes in the February 2014 issue of Asimov’s is Derek Künsken's “Schools of Clay,” a space opera that is almost incomprehensible. It concerns a race of beings that is modeled on bees, apparently, with queens, workers and new generations of princesses. These beings mine asteroid belts and seem to be partly machine and partly organic (though their nature is never spelled out, one of the serious shortcomings of this story). Some of these beings have souls, and some do not, though what “soul” means in this context is unclear. Diviya is the viewpoint character, a medic or mechanic or both, caught between castes. And he is a revolutionary, for the workers have become dissatisfied with their status. A need for the colony to migrate — a pod of predatory shaghāl has come after the colony, beings whose nature and aims are not explained — comes too early for the plans of the revolutionaries, but Diviya encourages them to rise up regar... Read More

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