Thoughtful Thursday: Thank you, Ray Bradbury

I did not know Ray Bradbury. But he knew me. He knew me in the quickened response to that first crisp fall day, the smell of October. He knew me in the loving slap of sneakers...

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How Great Science Fiction Works: A college course for science-fiction fans

How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe For years I’ve been a fan of the GREAT COURSES audiobooks, which I usually pick up at my library or at Audible. These are a...

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Expanded Universe: Demonic Muscle Cars and Undead Motorcycle Gangs

Laurence MacNaughton entered the urban fantasy universe with his DRU JASPER series, It Happened One Doomsday and A Kiss Before Doomsday. The adventures of crystal witch Dru Jasper...

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Great SFF Deals!

We’re always looking for money-saving deals on books, comics, and audiobooks and we bet you are, too. Let’s use this page to alert each other about great deals. Just leave a...

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Recent Posts

Sunday Status Update: September 29, 2013

This week, Cinderella needs some relationship advice.

Cinderella: So I went partying last night. It was nice, I met the prince and he was gorgeous. We danced for hours, but then -- you know, curfew. They're worst when they're magical. So I woke up this morning (with a headache, which didn't help anything. Should've gone easier on the punch, I guess) to hear the big news that the prince is looking all over for the girl with the glass slipper. It was kind of flattering until I realized he was doing it by having his grand vizier roll around in a carriage from house to house to try the slipper on every girl in the city. What the hell? Does he think there couldn't possibly be more than one woman who takes a size five? Given he was staring into my face half the night, you'd think it would be a little easier to just make a few house calls and find me for himself. What, can't he find the strength to haul h... Read More

Ikigami, Volume 1 OR How to Read Manga, Part 1

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volume 1 by Motoro Mase

or "How to Read Manga, Pt 1"

Though I haven't read too much manga — pronounced "mahn-gha," in case you were wondering — I am starting to acquire a taste for it. I think part of my problem was trying to read it slowly like I do American comics (and like I recommend in my essay here on FanLit, "How To Read Comics"). Watching my daughter devour quickly the entire 20-volume set of Bakuman, an excellent manga about the creation and culture of manga in Japan, I started wondering how she did it (and she wa... Read More

The Sandcats of Rhyl: Possibly the worst novel I’ve ever read

The Sandcats of Rhyl by Robert E. Vardeman

The Sandcats of Rhyl, Robert E. Vardeman’s first novel, is possibly the worst novel I’ve ever read. It is bad in every sense — so bad that I wondered if it might be a parody of bad science fiction. Apparently it’s not a parody; it’s just simply bad.

So how did I end up with this awful book? It was one of those daily ebook deals at Amazon. I think I paid 99¢ and then added the audio narration for 99¢ more. Before I bought it I checked the star ratings at Amazon just to make sure it wasn’t something everyone hates. Well, according to the average rating at Amazon (4.5 stars at this moment), readers love The Sandcats of Rhyl. So, a 4.5 star ebook and audiobook for $1.98? A no-brainer, right? I bought it. What I realize now is that I looked at the average rating but didn’t bother to read Read More

We Can Build You: Surprisingly sweet, sad, insightful and amusing

We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick

Although Philip K. Dick's 28th science fiction novel, We Can Build You, was first published in book form as a 95-cent DAW paperback in July 1972, it had actually been written a good decade before, and first saw the light of day under the title "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum" in the November 1969 and January 1970 issues of Amazing Stories. As revealed by Dick biographer Lawrence Sutin, the book was in part inspired by the centennial of the Civil War and by a simulation of Abraham Lincoln that Phil had recently seen in Disneyland.

In We Can Build You, we meet a pair of businessmen in Ontario, Oregon — Maury Frauenzimmer and (our narrator) Louis Rosen — who sell pianos and electric organs and who are about to branch out into a new line of endeavor: mechanical "simulacra" (think: robots) of various Civil War figures. When their Lincoln and Edwin M. Stanton creations come to the at... Read More

History and Fantasy

Michael Pryor is the author of THE LAWS OF MAGIC, a young adult series set in an alternate Edwardian England (called Alibion in the series), which I thought was “charmingly old-fashioned” and happily recommended. Michael graciously took some time off from his new series, THE EXTRAORDINAIRES, to talk to us about the connection between History and Fantasy.

History is the Fantasy writer’s best friend. That’s almost a truism, but it bears repeating. A good understanding of history gives a Fantasy writer a springboard into the whole world creation business. Why invent a whole world from scratch when you can delve into history and find a multitude of fascinating cultures, societies, customs and ways of living?

Thanks to Read More

How the World Became Quiet: Wish I’d discovered Swirsky sooner

How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future by Rachel Swirsky

I don’t read a lot of short stories, so it isn’t surprising that Rachel Swirsky wasn’t on my radar. Stories and novellas are what she is best known for. Subterranean Press has gathered 18 of her works into this collection, How the World Became Quiet.

Swirsky also writes poetry, which explains both her precise use of prose and her mastery of tone. This collection ranges from masterworks to pieces that are, in my opinion, interesting experiments. The book is broken into four sections; Past, Present, Future and The End, and the stories follow that, generally speaking; fantastical stories that could be set in Earth’s past or exist as folktales; stories set roughly speaking in the present day; tales, both science fiction and fantastical set in Earth’s future, and stories that discuss event during or after human extinction.
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The Warrior of World’s End: Imaginative pulpy adventure

The Warrior of World’s End by Lin Carter

Lin Carter wrote derivative pulpy adventure stories in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and others. I think of these as second-rate but I pick them up when I find them cheap at Audible — they’re short fast-moving stories with imaginative scenery and lots of action. In a Lin Carter novel you’re sure to find a sword-wielding man with sweaty “thews,” a scantily-clad girl who needs to be saved, and lots of scary monsters. Usually this takes place in some fascinatingly impossible setting such as on the boughs of gigantic trees, under a volcano, in a lost city, or on an uncharted planet.

In The Warrior of World’s End, a down-and-out godmaker and his wife are traveling through a desert when they find a large... Read More

The Scroll of Years: A lovely gift to give yourself

The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

In The Scroll of Years, Chris Willrich’s short story characters, Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone make the jump to their first novel. Gaunt, who comes from one of the city of Palmary’s “better” families, is a rebellious poet, and Bone is a thief. They are lovers, and as the book opens they are expecting their first child. In their time together, Bone has taught Gaunt quite a bit about fighting, fleeing and breaking and entering; Gaunt has help Bone develop his gift for language.

These two will need all their skills to escape their current predicament. The Night Auditors, supernatural assassins, are pursuing them, sent by the kleptomancers of Palmary. Gaunt and Bone flee to the continent of Qiangguo. Before the adventure ends, they will face dragons, thieves, soldiers, magical scrolls and a pair of fighters who would be right at home in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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Book of Iron: A charming story full of wonderful creatures

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

The novella Book of Iron is Elizabeth Bear’s prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures about Bijou the artificer. Bijou creates beautiful jeweled creatures by animating bones. I haven’t read Bone and Jewel Creatures but Terry and Stefan loved it, and the publisher promises that Book of Iron can stand alone, so there was no way I was passing on my review copy to Terry without reading it first.

Bijou works for her friend Salih, the second prince of Messaline. Another wizard, a necromancer named Kaulas, rounds out the trio of friends and adventurers and, at least for the moment, is Bijou’s lover. When another group of wizard adventurers comes to Messaline on a quest, Bijou, Prince Salih and Kaulas insist on accompanying them, partly for the excitement and partly to protect... Read More

Marion chats with Helene Wecker

Helene Wecker’s debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni (reviewed here), explores the immigrant experience through the eyes of two folkloric creatures. Helene took some time from her schedule to answer some of my questions and to give me a signed copy of The Golem and the Jinni which I’ll pass on to one random commenter.

Marion Deeds: The Golem and the Jinni is primarily an immigrant’s tale, but your title characters, being folkloric creatures, added a new level to the story. Once again, America is engaged in a dialogue, often a nasty one, about the value of immigrants. Should we have a quota for immigrant jinnis, for instance? (Just kidding.) What do you think your book brings to the discussion?

Helene Wecker: It's funny, it took me a while to realize th... Read More