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 Steerswoman: The Steerswomen’s code of open information is refreshing

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

Originally published in 1989, The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein, was reissued by the author in 2013, along with the rest of the four existing books in the STEERSWOMAN series. This first book introduces the world of steerswoman Rowan, and the order of steerswomen (and some men), who travel the world gathering and sharing information and knowledge. There is only one kind of knowledge steerswomen don’t have — magic.

When the book opens, Rowan has stopped at an inn to question the innkeeper about a strange stone she found years ago, inside the trunk of a tree she cut down. The rules of society are these: a steerswoman will answer any question you ask if she knows the answer, and any person must answer the questions asked by a steerswoman. The w... Read More

WWWednesday: October 13, 2021

New York City’s Comic-Con resumed in-person events last weekend. The organizers followed through on their promise of reduced capacity, and required masking and other safety protocols, including proof of vaccination.

John Scalzi announced that the Tor Essentials edition of his comic novel Redshirts is available now.

Publishers Weekly also reported that book club favorites for this Read More

And What Can We Offer You Tonight: Dreamlike, angry horror

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

Premee Mohamed’s novella And What Can We Offer You Tonight (2021) is set in a drowning city where human life is not cheap — it’s worthless. If starvation, violence or disease doesn’t kill you, probably one of the routine government “culls” will, unless you are one of the uber-wealthy, living elsewhere and treating the city like a personal playground/hunting-ground, or a person who services the very wealthy. This leads us to Jewel, our first-person narrator, a courtesan in an elite, exclusive and very expensive “house,” the House of Bicchieri.

Jewel gets a portion of every client’s payment, and a share of any tips; it seems like she would have enough money to escape the “gilded cage” in which she lives, if she wanted to, but the courtesans ... Read More

The Fire Opal Mechanism: Lovely worldbuilding, an enjoyable read

The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde

Of course I’d be a sucker for any book with a brave librarian, and Fran Wilde’s 2019 novella, The Fire Opal Mechanism, has one such, along with a resourceful thief and a time travel device. This short book is an enjoyable read. I haven’t read The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a novella set in the same world. Probably some of the comments about the jewels will make more sense to people who have read that story, and there is a crossover character, but this novella does stand alone well.

Ania has been promoted to Master Archivist at the Far Reaches university library, after the previous archivist has vanished. As the story opens, she is frantically... Read More

WWWednesday: October 6, 2021 (Giveaway!)

On Monday, Facebook and its associated applications went offline for six hours, leaving businesses cut off, people unable to easily contact family members, and some folks unable to control the thermostat or laundry settings in their homes. Mark Zuckerberg offered a terse apology on his platform. The Verge discusses the probable reason,  a coding error released in an automatic upgrade.

The shortlist for the National Book Award is out now.

The Deep Cuts in a Lovecraft Vein blog takes a look at Read More

WWWednesday: September 29, 2021

And now… travelogue.

Mono Lake, Ca.

The calcium carbonate towers, with their knobs and twists, that decorate the water and the shores of Mono Lake in eastern California were (and are) formed by the interaction of freshwater springs below the lake’s surface and the highly mineralized lake water. They’re called tufa. Mono Lake’s salinity is much higher than any ocean; the only things that live in it are brine shrimp and alkaline fly larvae, both of which provide a banquet for many varieties of birds. The lake is currently 65 square miles in area, but it used to be much larger. The Owens Valley project diverted water from the lake to be used by Los Angeles for decades until it was finally stopped only a few years ago. Many... Read More

WWWednesday: September 22, 2021

It will be a very short column this week.

At Lit Hub, Joe R. Lansdale thinks back about the Hap and Leonard series and how Leonard came into being. He updates the column with memories of Michael K. Williams, who played Leonard in the series.

Maria Dahvana Headley’s translation of Beowulf took the Harold Morton Landon translation award.

FIYAHCon 2021 has made some of its panels available at no cost... Read More

Bacchanal: Trapped souls, a dark carnival and a quest for belonging

Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry

In the northern hemisphere, it’s heading for autumn, when nature slows and sleeps, when days get shorter, and tales get spookier. It’s the time of year for “dark carnival” tales, and Veronica G. Henry provides us with a new one, Bacchanal (2021), her debut novel.

In the late 1930s, The G.B Bacchanal Carnival makes the south-and-southwest circuit of the USA, and along the way they often pick up new acts. Clay, a red-haired white man from Chicago, is the “face” of the carnival, but all the acts are Black performers. Clay and his lieutenant, Jamey, a Black man born in the south, scout for talent. The people they hire are not your average performers; they all have a touch of magic. And Clay, for all his apparent authority, is not the boss of the operation. That position is held by a powerful African demon, Ahiku, who uses the carnival to search for (... Read More

Breath of Earth: Alt-history and magic in a high-stakes adventure

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

Breath of Earth begins a new fantastical alternative-history series from Beth Cato, in which hydrogen-filled airships dot the skies, giant beasts in the ground cause earthquakes, and Teddy Roosevelt became an internationally-renowned Ambassador rather than the 26th U.S. President. (There’s also a nationally touring opera prominently featured in a side plot; if Lincoln isn’t a sly nod to a certain massively popular Tony-winning musical, I will eat my least-favorite hat.)

In an almost-recognizable San Francisco, a permanent establishment of geomancer wardens keeps the city and the surrounding countryside safe from tremors and other manifestations of magical energy. By absorbing the earth’s power and transferring it to crystals of a special mineral known as kermanite, the wardens all... Read More

Ace of Spades: Dark academia meets Gossip Girl, and no place is safe

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades (2021) is Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s first novel. It’s a YA thriller and doesn’t have any speculative elements, but if you like good prose, good characterization and high-suspense thrillers this book might be for you. I was not the target audience for this book, but after the first couple of chapters, I could not put it down.

Chiamaka and Devon are students at an upscale private high school called Niveus Academy. It’s senior year, and the two are each selected to be Senior Prefects (the school, while located in the USA, follows certain British school traditions.) For Chiamaka, this simply ticks another box on her personal to-do list, which include being crowned queen of the school ball and accepted into Yale premed. Devon, a scholarship student, is stunned that he’s been made prefect, because he has no friends and k... Read More

WWWednesday: September 15, 2021

File 770 provides part one the Emmy Creative Arts award.

You are probably already wondering what to get your children for Christmas, right? Of course  you are. How about a robot unicorn, suitable for riding? Child sizes only, sorry.

The UK Guardian provides a long story about three techbros, their vision of a libertarian utopia, crypto-currency and a decommissioned cruise ship. What could possibly go wrong? (Spoiler alert…) (Genuine spoiler alert—I knew libertarianism was out the window as soon as they started talking about pets.)
Read More

The Angel of the Crows: Too faithful to the originals

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

For about the first third or perhaps half of Katherine Addison’s newest, The Angel of the Crows (2020), I was thinking I was finally off the schneid, as it had been about two weeks since I’d really thoroughly enjoyed a novel I was reading. And I was definitely enjoying the pastiche of several Sherlock Holmes stories which basically boils down to “It’s Holmes but with angels and vampires!” Which sounds like a lot of fun, and as noted, it was, at least for that first third or so. But then, well, it never really went anywhere beyond “It’s Holmes but with angels and vampires!” and after about the halfway point my enjoyment began to falter, the story began to sag, and by the end I was left feeling that a n... Read More

WWWednesday: September 8, 2021

Dragon Awards were announced Sunday. Andy Weir won for Best Science Fiction novel (Project Hail Mary); Jim Butcher won for Best Fantasy novel (Battle Ground). T. Kingfisher walked away with two Dragons; one for best YA and one for best horror novel. Congratulations to all the winners. The Baen Fantasy Adventure Award was also announced.

The Sideways Awards, celebrating ex... Read More

You Brought Me the Ocean: A sweet romance with beautiful artwork

You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, drawn by Julie Maroh

Jake Hyde dreams of the ocean and has secretly applied to the marine biology program at the University of Miami, but in waking life, the ocean is limited to the aquarium in his room. His father drowned, and since then his mother has resolutely kept him away from water (hence the secrecy about University of Miami). She even moved them to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, to keep her son away from water.

A yearning for the ocean’s not the only secret Jake is keeping. He likes guys, a fact he hasn’t shared with his best-friend-since-forever, Maria, whose feelings for him are clearly changing. Meanwhile, Jake is attracted to Kenny Liu, the school swim team captain, who is out and proud.

You Brought Me the Ocean (2020) is a graphic novel, a coming-out romance set in the world of DC Comics. Jake is a reimagining of a 1960s Aquama... Read More

WWWednesday: September 1, 2021

Clarion West offers online classes. (Thanks to File 770.)

On Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, R.W.W. Greene talks about celebrity names and other things from her new dystopian novel Twenty Five to Life.

On his blog, John Scalzi notes that adaptations from his work Love, Death and Rob... Read More

Marion chats with Daryl Gregory (GIVEAWAY!)

Daryl Gregory’s first novel Pandemonium won the 2009 Crawford Award. His novella We Are All Completely Fine won both the World Fantasy and the Shirley Jackson awards. Gregory writes across genres, with science fiction titles like Afterparty, and fantastical family sagas like Spoonbenders. Earlier in 2021 his novella The Album of Dr. Moreau was released, and his newest release is his Southern gothic horror novel Read More

Revelator: A high-proof distillation of horror

Revelator by Daryl Gregory

Stella Birch sees her family’s god when she is nine years old, in 1933. Her father has dropped her off in a sheltered valley, the cove, in the Smoky Mountains. He says he’s leaving her with Motty, her grandmother, while he looks for work, but he’s never coming back.

Daryl Gregory’s 2021 southern gothic horror novel Revelator trades in bone-deep horror, stunning beauty, strangeness, and acid-etched banter. Moving between two timelines, Stella’s time with Motty in the cove and her present life as a moonshiner in 1948, the novel reveals the secret of the Birch women and the god in the mountain, and includes interesting bits of history, like the creation of the Smoky Mountain National Park, which will inclu... Read More

WWWednesday: August 25, 2021

File 770 shared the announcement of the nomination period for the Sara Douglass Book Series Award. I think the idea of an award strictly for series is great.

A new C.L.Polk book! A novella, due out next fall.

Giveaway: one commenter chosen at random, with a USA or Canadian address, will get a copy of C.M. Waggoner’s The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Winzardry.

At LitHub, Heather Cass White examines the primal sin of literacy in Read More

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry: Witty, rollicking good fun

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

Dellaria Wells is an untrained fire witch, living hand-to-mouth in the slums of Leiscourt, trying to keep track of her drip-addicted mother. Behind on rent and threatened with a curse by her landlady, Delly plans to answer a mysterious advertisement recruiting various women to protect a Lady of Some Importance. When she is interviewed — through the bars of a cell, as it happens — Delly gives a succinct summation of her skills to the interviewer:
“… Why on earth would I be willing to interview a criminal for a position in my employer’s household, Miss Wells?”

 

“If I might beg your pardon, Magister,” Delly said, “I’m only a very petty criminal, but I’m a rare excellent fire witch, and we ain’t so very thickly strewn upon the local thoroughfares…”
Delly is hired along with several women as a protection detail for Mi... Read More

WWWednesday: August 18, 2021

CONvergence is reporting that someone who attended has notified the Con Committee that they now have Covid. (Thanks to File 770.) If you attended the in person events you may want to get tested.

The Dragon Award finalists have been announced.

DragonCon is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test done no more than 72 hours before admittance to the Con.

Jon del Arroz has been permanently suspended from the Twitter platform.

From File... Read More

WWWednesday: August 11, 2021

Debris premiered on NBC in 2021. The network canceled it after one season. (You can find it On Demand if you really want to.) I’m not surprised they canceled it. The show never gained traction with the audience, and this was because it never found its footing as a story.

There are several good things about the show, which I will list. You can decide if they are enough to make you watch.

The pluses include:

Excellent special effects
Some good performances
John Noble (plus and minus)
Beautiful and strange “Debris” pieces—kudos to the props department
Great use of ending credits to advance the story (plus and minus).

The story seems to be set in this reality in the present day. Finola Jones and Bryan Beneventi are intelligence agents, she from MI6, he from… the CIA (maybe?)... Read More

WWWednesday: August 4, 2021

I said this would be a single-issue column, but it will be a short links column instead.

Tordotcom Books has revealed the beautiful cover of Comeuppance Served Cold, here! And you can preorder it. You’re thinking, “She’s going to get obnoxious about this,” and you’re right.

Randall Plunket, Baron of Dunsany, descendent of the Lord Dunsany, Read More

Ring Shout: The horrors of racism and hatred made tangible

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

In Ring Shout (2020), P. Djèlí Clark melds two types of horror, Lovecraftian monsters and the bloody rise of the Ku Klux Klan in 1922 Georgia, as a group of black resistance fighters take on an enemy with frightening supernatural powers.

As Ku Klux Klan members march down the streets of Macon, Georgia on the Fourth of July, Maryse Boudreaux, who narrates the story, watches from a rooftop with her two companions, sharpshooter Sadie and former soldier Cordelia “Chef” Lawrence, a bomb expert. They’ve baited a trap for the “Ku Kluxes,” who are hellish demons that hide in disguise among the Klan humans, taking over the bodies of the worst of them. The trap works, but the silver pellets and iron slags contained in the bomb aren’... Read More

WWWednesday: July 28, 2021

Next week’s column will probably be single-topic, because I will be leaving for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference earlier in the week.

The Ladies of Horror Fiction announced their annual award winners.

Mari Ness had a fun story in Daily SF this week.

The British Fantasy Awards short list is out, and included Alix Harrow, Read More

The Midnight Bargain: A charming frolic of a book

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk 

By the bottom of the second full page of text, when the protagonist of The Midnight Bargain (2020) walked into Harriman’s Bookshop, I was hooked. When Beatrice Clayborn entered the second-hand shop and I saw it through her eyes, the book claimed me, not unlike the way a spirit might claim a sorceress in Beatrice’s magical world.

It’s bargaining season, or marriage season in Beatrice’s world, and young women of the upper classes, like Beatrice, jostle and compete for the hand of a suitable husband. Suitability is decided by their fathers, of course, and usually determined based on wealth, status and influence.

Beatrice loathes the bargaining season. She wants to study magic and become a full-blown Mage, a path closed to women, especially upper-class wome... Read More

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