Marion Deeds

Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

The Hidden Palace: Double the golems and jinnis

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

In The Hidden Palace (2021) Helene Wecker returns to the richly-imagined world of The Golem and the Jinni, fin de siècle New York City, focusing on the Jewish and Syrian immigrant communities. Chava, an intelligent golem created by an evil-hearted genius, was set free by the unexpected death of her intended husband and master, left with the ability to hear the thoughts of all humans instead of just her master. The jinni Ahmad is released from the bottle that imprisoned him, but he is bound to tangible human form with no discernable way to remove the curse. Despite their opposite natures of earth and fire, golem and jinni are drawn together in a world where neither fits in, and both are hiding their true natures from t... Read More

WWWednesday: January 12, 2022

Filippo Bernardini was arrested last week on charges of wire fraud. The Simon and Schuster employee may have impersonated agents, members of award juries and even famous authors to get his hands on pre-published manuscripts. I want to know what he planned to do with those manuscripts.

The Con Committee chair of ConFusion provides a long, blunt article about why ConFusion 2022 is going forward in-person. She provides two paragraphs on the precautions they are taking. This is a worthwhile read, letting us see how groups are grappling with the physical and fiscal realities of the pandemic. (Thanks to File 770.)

Glen S. ... Read More

The Sentence: A haunted bookshop is a window into America

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

“sentence (n)1. A grammatical unit comprising a word or a group of words that is separate from any other grammatical construction, and usually consists of at least one subject with its predicate and contains a finite verb or verb phrase; for example, ‘The door is open’ and ‘Go!’ are sentences.”

I didn’t know what to expect from Louise Erdrich’s metafictional ghost story The Sentence (2021) and she still managed to surprise me. Starting with the title, Erdrich addresses a number of issues in this story, told mostly by Tookie, who works at a bookstore in Minneapolis, owned by a well-known writer named Louise. Tookie is being haunted by Flora, a (dead) customer.

Tookie served ten years of a different kind of sentence, a sixty-year sentence for m... Read More

WWWednesday: January 5, 2022

Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration. Here are a few of the enduring traditions.

Tomorrow, January 6, is Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night, and has its own set of traditions. To wrap things up, I tracked down Mary Berry’s King’s Cake recipe on Pinterest. (It’s a super-deluxe fruit cake, but so much more British than ours.)

File770 highlighted the problems some authors are having with Amazon Kindle direct Publishing (KDP). Lexi Ostrow gives a blow-by-blow of Read More

WWWednesday: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In 2012’s The Avengers, Agent Phil Coulson was murdered by Loki. This didn’t stop him from coming back and having a seven-season run on his own TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, even if he did die at least one more time during that show’s run.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aired on ABC from 2013 to 2020. I recently started rewatching it. It brought back memories, good and bad, of my original watch of the series. I’m going to discuss my thoughts and reactions to the first three seasons which cover generally (these are my names), Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D, Hydra Emerges, The Rise of the Inhumans, and the Arrival of Hive.

Back in 2013, I got impatient with the show because of its close ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Looking back, I’ve changed my opinion. The task of telling original stories that must dovetail in time and pacing with a series of films, and keeping things coherent, is a massive logistic achievement wh... Read More

WWWednesday: December 22, 2021

Network Effect



I said this week’s column would be a single-issue one, and it is, but that issue is the Hugo winners. WorldCon 79 was held last weekend in Washington D.C. and the winners were announced on December 18.

This will be short. Find all the winning works here.

Best Novel:

 

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Best Novella:

The Empress of Salt And Fortune by Read More

Abbott: Elder gods and tough reporters in 1970s Detroit

Reposting to include Brad's new review.

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivela

BOOM! Studios has released the trade edition of the first series of the period dark fantasy Abbott (2018), words by Saladin Ahmed and art by Sami Kivela. Set in 1972, the story follows Elena Abbott, a reporter for the Detroit Daily. Abbott may not be the paper’s only woman reporter, but she is probably its only Black reporter and definitely the only Black woman reporter. Currently, she is in trouble with the paper’s owners for her accurate expose of the police murder of a Black teenager. She is sent to cover the mutilation of a police horse. To further punish her for her stand against police lawlessness, the paper has taken away her photographer and given Abbott a camera. This is a status hit that her w... Read More

Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Roar of Sky by Beth Cato

Beth Cato concludes her BLOOD OF EARTH trilogy with Roar of Sky (2018), bringing the story of clandestine geomancer Ingrid Carmichael, which began in Breath of Earth and continued in Call of Fire, to an action-packed close. This review will contain some spoilers for events in previous books, so proceed with caution.

Badly wounded and permanently debilitated after her desperate fight in Seattle against Ambassador Blum, Ingrid and her friends Cy Jennings and Fenris Braun flee to Hawaii aboard the Palmetto Bug, a sma... Read More

WWWednesday: December 15, 2021

Anne Rice, who helped the vampire genre rise again with Interview With the Vampire, died on December 12 at age 80. Here is her obituary in the New York Times. The New Orleans website NOLA.com also has a tribute.

“It was a mess, but a fun mess.” Camestros Felapton shares their reaction to Doctor Who: Flux. I didn’t think it was a mess, personally, even if I didn’t understand pieces of it.

Nichelle Nichols made an ... Read More

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe: Part Lovecraft pastiche, part academic novel

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

With the title, you figure out pretty quickly that 2016’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson, is a Lovecraft pastiche, modeled on The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that the beginning at least is a gentle send-up — or, to be polite, a “nod” — to academic novels.

Vellitt Boe, the book’s protagonist, is a professor at the Women’s College in the University in Ulthar. In the opening pages, she wakes from a strange and powerful dream to the news that a star student, who... Read More

WWwednesday: December 8, 2021

Conventions go on, or try to, at least. File770 posts some information about bids for future WorldCons. And then, speaking of conventions, here’s what happens when a new variant emerges. It looks like people were quick to get tested and notify each other.

Itzak Perlman is featured in this instrumental version of Abraham Goldfaden’s lullaby ... Read More

The Annual Migration of Clouds: Hope gleams through a dark future

The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamad

Whether it’s writing weird horror, fantasy, science fiction or science horror fiction — a subgenre I think I just made up — Premee Mohamad is one of the best around right now, and she does great work in the novella length. Her latest example is 2021’s The Annual Migration of Clouds, a short, harrowing work set in a tight-knit community surviving after catastrophic climate change and a loss of arable topsoil.

Reid is a teenaged girl in a small, successful community. This group is egalitarian, with each person doing their part to keep things running, even though they have no farmland, no electricity, and little in the way of medicine. Reid is one of the miraculously lucky few who just got an invitation to Howse University, an enclave of pre-disaster learning... Read More

WWWednesday: December 1, 2021

A single topic column today, and a book review at that. I’m not using our review format, but this was a four-star book for me.

Home Before Dark (2020) is a haunted house story written by Riley Sager, a pseudonym of a Princeton, New Jersey writer. If you like atmospheric, unsettling haunted-house stories and strong female protagonists, you’ll probably enjoy this. I did.

Maggie has grown up with the ugly effects of fame—or infamy—her whole life. Her father’s book House of Horrors, a supposedly true story of twenty days spent with her parents in a haunted house, Baneberry Hall, culminating in them fleeing with only the clothes on their backs, continues to be a best-seller twenty-five years later. Little Maggie, five years old, was the star of the book in many ways, even though adult Maggie remembers none of it.

With her father’s death, she discovers to her shock that he never sold Baneberry Hall, a... Read More

WWWednesday: November 24, 2021

This Guardian UK story follows the process of restoring an ancient book of psalms.

Articles about the Dragon Awards always draw me in, because the Dragon Award is fairly new and it’s a chance to watch an award evolve in the wild. That said, the title of this one baffled me for several paragraphs, but rest assured, Goodreads does make an appearance!

The Huntington Museum is offering an exhibition of graphics demonstrating how authors have “mapped” their fictional works.  (Thanks to File 770.)

Read More

Scribe: Come for the bleakness, stay for the poetry

Scribe by Alyson Hagy

Alyson Hagy’s slim 2018 literary novella Scribe mines Appalachian folktales for a bleak, harrowing and poetic story about loss, guilt, love and honor. By deliberately setting the story in a world outside of our time and space, Hagy forces attention onto the characters, which at times gives the book the feel of a stage-play more than a story or a poem.

In spite of an otherworldly setting, this novel isn’t speculative fiction. Hagy isn’t raising questions about how people live in a world like this one. She’s exploring the effects of isolation, guilt and trauma against a folkloric setting, and asking, “In a terrible situation, how do we find the good in each other?”

In order to help set expectations, I will engage in a mild spoiler. In this world, there has been an historic civil war. There have, it seems, been several wars. There have been mi... Read More

WWWednesday: November 17, 2021

From two months ago, the British Fantasy Award winners (better late than never). Some of our favorites, like Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Alix E. Harrow, are on here!

How about an anthology of Christmas stories edited by SFWA Grandmaster Connie Willis? 

Comeuppance Served Cold got a starred review  (or, as my husband called i... Read More

The Language of Power: An unfinished series, a frustrating cliffhanger

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

2014’s The Language of Power is the fourth and final complete book in Rosemary Kirstein’s THE STEERSWOMAN series. Kirstein is hardly the worst offender in the ranks of writers who stopped writing before a series was finished. Still, the sense of urgency that develops in the final few pages of the book left me hanging, almost literally. Since this is the fourth book in the series, this review might contain spoilers for the previous books.

The cliffhanger is one thing, but the book left me disappointed and frustrated in other ways, too. In the previous book, The Lost Steersman, steerswoman Rowan interacted with a native species previously unknown t... Read More

The Bone Shard Daughter: A fast-paced, enticing adventure

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (2020) by Andrea Stewart is a fast-paced, enticing read, with an attractive world and a magical system that grabs the imagination with both hands and doesn’t let it go.

Stewart’s debut is the first book of a series, THE DROWNING EMPIRE. In an archipelago empire, the imperial Sukai dynasty defeated the powerful Alanga, who ruled it. The current emperor, Shiyen, uses bone shard magic to protect his citizens from the possible return of the Alanga. Shiyen runs his empire using constructs, chimera-like beings animated by chips of bone taken from every citizen of the empire, usually when they are children. At events called Festivals, chips of bone are chiseled out of each child’s skull, sometimes with fatal results. Those chips, later implanted... Read More

Call of Fire: Searching for friends in the shadow of Mount Rainier

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Call of Fire (2017) continues the adventures of Ingrid Carmichael, introduced in Breath of Earth as a secretary at a geomancy school with tremendous hidden powers and who, in this second BLOOD OF EARTH novel, is on the run from an ambitious ambassador with deadly secrets. This time, Beth Cato takes Ingrid, Lee Fong, Cy Jennings, and the brilliant engineer Mr. Fenris up the Pacific Northwest coastline to Portland and Seattle, where the Japanese influence of the United Pacific conglomeration is inescapable.

Ambassador Blum, a mysterious woman who can change her physical form and practices a dark form of reiki, desperately wants to get her hands on Ingrid, which forebodes all kinds of suf... Read More

WWWednesday: November 10, 2021

The Word Fantasy awards were announced last weekend. Trouble the Saints, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, won for Best Novel. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi took the award for Best Novella, and Celeste Rita Baker’s “The Glass Bottle Dancer” took home the best short story award.

In his newsletter, Max Gladstone announced that CRAFT Sequence merchandise is now available. Yes, you too can now have a Red King Consolidated T-shirt.

If you’re a Hugo voter this year, John Scalzi reminds you that the deadline is looming.

File 770 writes about Read More

Nightshifted: Nurse Edie Spence’s first adventure

Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

Edie Spence has a degree in nursing and a job at the County Hospital, in the Y4 ward. County Hospital, the public hospital that treats everyone, insured or not, is a tough gig at any time — Y4 is both tougher and weirder, being the floor that treats daylight servants of vampires, vampires themselves, shapeshifters, and all sorts of were-folk. Oh, and did I mention zombies? The work is hard and dangerous, the pay is abysmal, but by working here, Edie guarantees protection for her junkie brother.  As Nightshifted opens, Edie is consigning her decision to just one more in a long list of bad life choices.

Then a vampire patient dies, but not before giving Edie a puzzle, or perhaps placing her under a compulsion. When the night shift is over, Edie goes out searching for a person named Anna, the vampire’s dying request. She finds a dark apartment with a wall of pictures of ... Read More

Lights of Prague: I wasn’t the audience for this one

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague (2021) is Nicole Jarvis’s first novel. It’s set in 1868 Prague, filled with pijavica* — vampires — and other magical creatures. Fighting the pijavica are the lamplighters, whose cover job is to go around lighting the new gas streetlamps in the city. Domek Myska is a lamplighter, apprenticed to an irascible alchemist. Lady Ora Fischerova is a widowed noblewoman with a secret, who has started up a flirtation with Domek. A bold and terrible plan hatched by an upstart nest of vampires threatens them and the entire city.

At first glance, a story like this should be right up my street. Lovely prose, detailed history and descriptions of Prague helped, but ultimately, flattened characters and a predictable plot made this book a disappointment.

The most beguiling character of the book is Kaja, an imprisoned will o’... Read More

Under the Whispering Door: A warm-hearted meditation on death

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When I got to the scene in Under the Whispering Door (2021) featuring an opportunistic “medium” being messed with by two ghosts, I started laughing so hard I fell over sideways on the loveseat. My husband kept saying, “What? What?” and I could only gasp, “You’ll… have to read it yourself.”

You’ll have to read it yourselves, too.

2021’s Under the Whispering Door is TJ Klune’s second fantasy book marketed to adults. His first was The House in the Cerulean Sea. Under the Whispering Door is a more personal book for Klune; he says in his afterword that he wrote it as a way of coming to grips with grief and loss. Despite the seriousness of the topic, the book ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 3, 2021

Facebook has changed its name to Meta, with a sort-infinity-sign logo. That was close enough to Neil Stephenson’s “metaverse” that Axios interviewed the writer about it.

World FantasyCon (this month in Montreal) is offering day memberships. This is a hybrid con, part online and part in-person. (Thanks to File 770.)

George R.R Martin hosts a Wild Cards-themed event at th... Read More

Grave Reservations: A quirky, engaging protagonist anchors this Seattle mystery

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Leda Foley is trying to keep her single-person travel agency afloat. Grady Merritt is a Seattle PD detective away at a conference. When Leda changes his return flight plans without notice or explanation, she saves his life — and outs herself as a psychic. Back home in Seattle, Grady hires her to assist on a baffling cold case he won’t let go of. Abruptly, a psychic episode shows Leda that this case and unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod three years earlier are connected.

2021’s Grave Reservations is a slight departure for Cherie Priest; no airships, no horror and hardly any ghosts. It isn’t exactly her first foray into mystery, because I am Princess X has strong mystery el... Read More

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