Monthly Archives: January 2014

January News

Fran Wilde:fran_photo
– joined five SF authors at Tor.com to talk about Food of the Future.
– short story sale to Lakeside Circus – “The Naturalist Composes His Rebuttal” – a very short tale of megafauna, Victoriana, and lies, damned lies
– interviewed her editor at Tor, Miriam Weinberg, about editorial and culinary style, food in fiction, and anime for Cooking the Books
– will be at Boskone, February 14-16. Program schedule coming soon!

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen:
– turned in the initial manuscript for his novel, tentatively titled Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, to his editor, Marco Palmieri, at Tor Books. Daily resisting the urge to call him up and ask, “have you finished reading it yet?”
– will be a guest at Anachrocon in Atlanta, GA, February 14 – 16
– continues to ask authors about their most memorable meal, every Monday morning on his blog at Eating Authors

Beth Cato:
– short story “Stitched Wings” published in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesBeth Cato
– novel The Clockwork Dagger now has a release date of September 16, 2014 and is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s
– currently writing sequel novel The Clockwork Crown

Steve BeinSteve Bein:
Library Journal named Year of the Demon one of the top 5 sci-fi/fantasy books of 2013
– got a sneak peek at the cover art for Disciple of the Wind and it is awesome. Will share it as soon as go-ahead granted from Roc
– making steady progress on Disciple of the Wind, which is due out this December

Michael R. UnderwoodMichael R. Underwood
– turned in revisions for Shield And Crocus, epic fantasy, after a truly excellent editorial letter from Fleetwood Robbins
– contracted more graphic design work for Shield And Crocus (more on that coming soon!)
– attended ConFusion in Detroit. Caught up with people, met many more, and had an excellent weekend at the top-notch fan con
– turned around Page Proofs for Attack the Geek
– both Geekomancy and Celebromancy were on promotion via Kindle. Hurray for new readers!

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins:
– turned in revisions for Drift, which is headed to the printer for ARCs
– sold a short story, “Waterlilies,” to Daily Science Fiction
– will be at Life, The Universe, and Everything in February! If you’re coming, here’s my schedule

Tina Connolly:tina_connolly-300x450
– Story podcast on Starship Sofa, Flash Bang Remember, co-written with Caroline M. Yoachim
– Finishing up edits for the third Ironskin novel, Silverblind. And there’s a synopsis up now!

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
The Golden City named to the Year’s Best list over at Library Journal and The Ranting Dragon
– mass market paperback of The Golden City will be released on June 3, followed by the trade paperback version of the sequel, The Seat of Magic, on July 1

Vectors: Left Wanting More, Part 2

Has there ever been a time when you wanted more from an author or a series, but for some reason, that next book never materialized?  Here’s what some of our authors (and a couple of guests) have to say about the topic:

(See Part 1 here.)

Sally “Qwill” Janin

Our second guest this week, Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Shattered-Glass-Cover-webWhen I saw the topic “”Which authors would you have liked to see more from?”” my thoughts immediately turned to Elaine Bergstrom. Ms. Bergstrom wrote one of my favorite series of all time – the Austra Vampire series. The first novel, Shattered Glass, was published by Jove in 1989 and was followed by Blood Alone (1990), Blood Rites (1991), Daughter of the Night (1992), Nocturne (2003) and then after an 8 year wait Beyond Sundown ( 2011). So it seems that my wish was granted and yet it is not enough. The series is a genre-bending mix of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Romance. Each of the novels is rich with historical detail and wonderful writing. I learned quite a bit about stained glass windows and how they are made from the series. I was enchanted by the stories and the memorable characters. There is a twist or two on the vampire mythos that is utterly fantastic and I still find fascinating. So I’m really hoping that Ms. Bergstrom will write more and more about the Austras. It’s one of the few series that I reread.

I’d also like to see more from Chris F. Holm. His fabulous 3 book The Collector series (Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye and The Big Reap) concluded this past year. It’s noir Urban Fantasy. This was a great series that showed off Chris’ talents from the first novel. I hope at some point Chris will return to the world he created in this series, but I’d be thrilled to read any novels he writes.

 

M. K. Hutchins

17. the bee-man of ornOh, how I’d love to have more short stories from Frank R. Stockton. He’s most well-known for “The Lady or the Tiger?” but my favorite — favorite of his, maybe favorite short story ever — is “The Bee Man of Orn.” It’s perfect and hilarious in a dry, quiet sort of way.

Whether they’re originals like Stockton’s or too old for any individual author to claim, I’ve always devoured fairy tales and myths. Stepping into the world of fictional authors, Scheherazade is a literary hero of mine. And I’m kind of glad she’s fictional — it seems to leave the door open for others to build on the tradition started by Arabian Nights in the way a single, real author doesn’t. When I was young, the only book I had in this vein was Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher — a fantastic YA/MG retelling of the story of Scheherazade herself. Recently, I’ve been very happy to find Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones as well. I’m eagerly awaiting the next books in those series.

 

Tex Thompson

roseoftheprophetI was likewise a child of ’80s fantasy – Shannara, Dragonlance, et al. But boy, reading the Rose of the Prophet trilogy was like sticking my adolescent brain-fork in a multicultural light socket – it fried my circuits that completely. I had NO IDEA that there could be fantasy books set outside Euromedieval Neverwhere. I had NO IDEA that good guys could have profound, plot-altering moral/cultural/religious differences without Falling to the Dark Side. I had NO IDEA that it was possible for well-meaning, intelligent people to completely misunderstand each other – for there to be important problems that had nothing to do with dark lords or massing armies, even in a story that’s still very much concerned with the aforesaid lords and armies.

In fact, I loved those books so much that I’ve actually been afraid to go back and re-read them as an adult. Once you learn about things like cultural appropriation, exoticism, and the whole slew of stereotypes that dog so many Western representations of non-Western peoples and cultures, it’s scary to look back at your old favorites and realize how many of them are capital-P Problematic. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, natch, but certainly does sand off some of that joyful fannish luster.)

Still, I’ve always wished that Weis and Hickman would revisit that world, or perhaps open it up to other authors. Failing that, I may just have to haul out my old paperbacks and revisit it myself.

 

Steve Bein

imagesI’m going with the philosopher-king of science fiction, Philip K. Dick.

It’s an unfair choice. You’d think 44 novels would be enough to leave your readers satisfied. But I for one would love to read Dick’s meditations on Edward Snowden.

Or Citizens United. Or reality television. Or Mission Accomplished. Or 9/11. Or Y2K. You get the idea. We lost PDK far too soon.

He’s at his best when he’s at his most philosophical. Who else is asking the question, “How do I know I’m me?” The Buddha handles that one really well. Not many others do, and no one handles it so playfully as PDK. What if he had lived long enough to see the immortalized, plasticized brain? Is a plastic copy of me still me?

This is a writer who he thrived on paradox, and he lived under the threat of the ultimate paradox: mutually assured destruction. So what do you do when your national defense strategy hinges on a national self-destruct strategy?

If you’re Philip K. Dick, you write “Foster, You’re Dead.” And while you’re at it, you take on the absurdity of hyperconsumerism and planned obsolence too.

What if he’d lived to see the next step? What would he have to say if it was the president, not a sardonic sci-fi writer, who explicitly tied national defense to shopping? What stories would he tell if he saw the threat of nuclear war replaced with the threat of international terrorism?

He feared the FBI was keeping tabs on him, a paranoia that was fueled by liberal use of amphetamines but was actually based in fact. What would he make of the recent NSA surveillance scandal? How about the voluntary surrender of personal privacy via Facebook and Twitter?

If he were alive today, he’d be 85. Arthur C. Clarke to 90, Ray Bradbury to 91, Frederik Pohl to 93. Those guys were publishing until the very end. I wish PDK had enjoyed the same longevity.

 

J. Kathleen Cheney

There are a lot of genre worlds where I would have loved to see more: perhaps another book in C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine series, a sequel to Samantha Henderson’s Heaven’s Bones, more in Martha Well’s world of Ile-Rien, or anything by M. K. Wren (I’ve read both her mystery and her fantasy.) But there are two instances of missing books which particularly bothered me.

lamourIn the late 80s, I became very angry with Louis L’Amour for dying before writing a sequel to The Last of the Breed. It seemed quite clear from the ending that there was going to be another book, although there’s been some dispute about that. If that book is ever published, I definitely want to read it!

In 2001, I was eagerly awaiting the fifth book in Margaret Miles’ “Bracebridge” mysteries, a series of historical mysteries set in 1760s rural Massachusetts. I loved the first four books (in fact I’m re-reading them right now!) and in the back of the book it clearly said she was working on the next book in the series. I waited…and waited…and waited. Then one day her website disappeared and, to this day, I do not know what happened to her and her wonderful books…

So what are the books you never got to read? Sound off in the comments below!

Vectors: Left Wanting More, Part 1

Has there ever been a time when you wanted more from an author or a series, but for some reason, that next book never materialized? Here’s what some of our authors (and a guest or two) have to say about the topic:

 

Martha Wells

Our guest today, Martha Wells is the author of a number of fantasy novels, short stories, and non-fiction articles. Her books include The Cloud Roads, The Wizard Hunters, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. The Siren Depths was published in December 2012 by Night Shade Books, and is the third in the Books of the Raksura series. Her most recent YA fantasy, Emilie and the Sky World, will be out in March 2014.

c2431Janet Kagan published three books, Mirabile (1991), Uhura’s Song (1985), and Hellspark (1988). Mirabile is a collection of stories about a lost colony on an alien world, with a genetic database that was damaged in transit, and a special biology and genetics team must stop outbreaks of bizarre and dangerous creatures caused by errors in the terraforming. Uhura’s Song is a Star Trek novel of first contact. Hellspark is about a woman sent to solve a murder mystery among a group of people with wildly different cultural backgrounds. These were some of my favorite books in college, and I read Uhura’s Song until it fell apart and I desperately searched for the sequel to Mirabile, not understanding that it would never appear. All three books are about understanding and communication, exploring differences and finding common ground, and living with our environment, and the characters are engaging and intriguing and fun. I wish she had written twenty or thirty more books, and even that might not have been enough.

Carol Severance published Demon Drums (1992), Storm Caller, and Sorcerous Sea (1993), a fantasy trilogy set in a world based on the Pacific Islands, following a priestess who is trying to sever her connection with an ancestral shark god. Even back in the early 90s, I was looking for fantasy that didn’t have a European-like setting, and I loved these books. The magic and the gods are both benign and frightening, and the books had an awesome female main character. Severance did one other SF novel and some short stories, but I would have loved to see more fantasy by her.

E.C. Ambrose

9780345461056_p0_v1_s260x420Rosemary Kirstein is one of my favorite elusive authors. She writes an amazing series called The Steerswoman’s Road, about an organization of women who are mapping their world and gathering all the information they can about it. This series reads like fantasy, with a basically medieval level of technology, but it has a secret. . . As the first book progresses, the protagonist has found another fragment of a strange blue crystal and is trying to work out where they might have come from. Using the dispersal pattern of the pieces and a bit of math by the fireside, she determines that the fragments might all have been from the same object. . .if it were possible for it to have been thrown by a giant several miles tall, or perhaps, fallen from the stars. And, in fact, one of the stars has recently vanished.

I love the characters and the concepts in Kirstein’s world, I love the way the reader, who is familiar with science fiction, can make some guesses about the truth–and yet without feeling like the characters are fools for not noticing right away. Each book has lead to more discoveries, to wizards and magic and greater character depth. yeah, it’s good stuff. Rosemary, the author, often comes to my local cons, and has even read excerpts from book 5, which she swears she’s working on, but she’s also a computer geek and a bit of a workaholic in that sphere. I keep hoping this next one will be the con where she announces the release date. Then I have to wait a little longer.

Lawrence M. Schoen

JCKFSHDWSF0000This is a brutal question, but I’m going to break into two parts. I’d have liked more of Burroughs’s planetary adventure novels; I’d trade ten later Tarzan novels for another visit to Amtor or Barsoom, and twenty of them for a sequel to Beyond the Farthest Star. I want an Alfred Bester novel that takes on the SF trope of Time Travel the way he brilliantly defined the genre’s take on Telepathy and Teleportation and Immortality in his other works. I’d like to discover a manuscript in a trunk in New Mexico with a sequel to Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows and find out if Morningstar reached Jack in time, and what happened after. I desperately wish my friend Jay had more time, and could give us the third volume from his City Imperishable trilogy.

Those are the books I don’t imagine getting, but there are others that I might. I want to read Walter Jon Williams’s third book in his Metropolitan series, if only a major publisher will come along and pay him to write it. I want to begin reading a long series of books about the next generation of Vorkosigans. I want another book form China Mieville like Perdido Street Station that pummeled me with its sheer brilliance and creativity, or Embassytown that felt like he was writing directly to me. And I’m sure I’m not alone wishing that Ursula Le Guin would take us back to the world of The Left Hand of Darkness, because surely we need it here in this 21st century we’re living in.

Beth Cato

5The first author that comes to mind is Harper Lee. Back in my teens when I was thoroughly entrenched in the fantasy genre, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and was just blown away by the artistry of it. I know there are a lot of people who wonder what else Lee has written that just hasn’t been seen by the outside world. As an introvert, I respect her privacy and secrecy; as a reader, I want to shake her until the stories fall out.

Again, I return to my teenage years when my big obsession was Dragonlance. The original authors of the first two trilogies, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, also created a completely non-D&D trilogy called Rose of the Prophet. They were epic fantasy with a strong Arabic mythological influence. I loved the heck out of those books. I remember reading (or re-reading) them when I was 13 and my family was on a big cross-country road trip. I couldn’t sleep in a motel one night, so I went into the bathroom so I could have the light on to keep reading. I think I re-read them about once a year for over a decade. Even when I largely stopped reading fantasy, I still read that trilogy.

Weis and Hickman are very prolific authors but I have always yearned for them to return to that world.

Fran Wilde

images (1)
My world is better because these writers passed through it, though I knew most of them only on the page. I wish they were still present, still telling.

– Octavia Butler
– Kage Baker
– Iain M. Banks
– Poets Lynda Hull, Larry Levis, Seamus Heaney

2014 Goals

This week’s question: What are your writing goals for 2014?

Michael R. Underwood:

Michael R. UnderwoodA couple years back, I started dividing yearly goals into goals and ambitions. Goals are things I mostly have control over, and ambitions are things I mostly don’t have control over. This lets me separate things out and focus on my priorities while still daydreaming about shiny things.

Goals:
Finish proofs for Attack the Geek, all revisions for Shield and Crocus, and for The Younger Gods on-time for publication.
Write The Younger Gods #2 and submit on-time.
Execute strong blog tour/promotional rounds for all three of my 2014 releases.
Host several more Dangerous Voices Variety Hour events.
Start planning my wedding (!).
And other non-writing goals (personal, work, etc.)

Summary – 2014 is going to be a big year for me – I’ve got a novella and two novels scheduled to release in 2014, across three different series. That also means I’ll be doing three major rounds of publicity/blog touring, which will demand a lot of time. And along the way, I also have to write another novel – which will be my fifth written to contract.

Ambitions:
Level up the status and success of the Ree Reyes series through Attack the Geek to the point of seeing a physical edition scheduled for wide release.
Make waves with Shield and Crocus and/or The Younger Gods – sales, critical success, the whole nine yards.
Get a major trade review for one of my works.
See one of my books on a major ‘Best of 2014 list’ or awards shortlist.
Conquer the world alongside my Novelocity colleagues.

Summary – With three releases, there are more chances for reviews, more chances for one of the books to strike a louder chord with readers. The Ree Reyes books are contracted such that Pocket has print rights, and can use them when they like. So the better the books sell in ebook, the higher the chances we’ll see some sort of print edition (most likely would be an omnibus, but that’s all up to the folks at Pocket).

E. C. Ambrose:

My goal is to create a whole new world for fiction, and draft the first book set there.  Right now, I’m starting the research, so I’ll be ahead of the game, but my concept is based in China, a huge place with a deep, rich history.  The research is fascinating, of course, so it’s a struggle to stay on target with the information I need, rather than pursue every curiosity that turns up.

On the other hand, the curiosities are often a great source of character and plot ideas. My first pass on research is to gain a general understanding of my topic area, to know where I want to zero in, then I’ll do more specific research on those areas, and that’s when the story and character ideas start sparking.  I intend to have a proposal packet ready by the end of March.E. C. Ambrose

I also need to be prepared for the launch of the second book in The Dark Apostle series, Elisha Magus, which comes out July 1.  My hope is to write a short story about Martin, a favorite character for many readers, to have out in the meantime.  I also have a draft of a novella about the earlier lives of Duke Randall and his wife Allyson.  It’s a bit of a mind-bender to go back and forth from China to medieval England, but I’m working it out!

Beth Cato:

Beth CatoI really like Mike’s idea to establish ambitions. That’s an awesome way to aim for things we can’t directly control. I am definitely borrowing that idea.

This coming year is really weird. This is my first time writing under contract. I’m used to doing my own deadlines, but now I have Big Awesome Holy Cow I Have a Book Deal deadlines. Therefore, my first priority is to write and revise my sequel to The Clockwork Dagger and turn that in by June 1st. Beyond that, it’s about building up for the book launch in September while trying not to flail about like Kermit the Frog. At least, not in public.

I also write short stories and poetry. I’m part of a supportive site called Write 1 Sub 1, and I do the monthly option where I try to send out at least one new work a month. The book stuff will have highest priority, but I do hope to keep smaller projects in circulation because I try to do All the Things.

Oh, and conventions. I do hope to attend a few this year. Right now I have my eye on LepreCon and Phoenix Comicon locally, and to go to World Fantasy Con in November.

Tina Connolly:

I have big plans for 2014, and they involve SLEEP. No, really. 2013 was a bit crazy, as I had a 2 year old, and a new baby, and I drafted a whole new book (the third in the Ironskin trilogy.) By contrast, 2014 mostly revolves around revisions – I’ll have edits to do for Tor on Ironskin 3 and on my next book from Tor Teen, Seriously Wicked. And then, that new baby. tina_connolly-300x450

So what I’m really determined to do is find some time to get the cobwebs out of my brain. Or maybe put them in my brain. Get some sleep, and get some walks, and get into a place where I can start planning out what I’m going to write next. It’s a wonderful thing to be working on a series, and I’ve really enjoyed working on the three Ironskin books. But now, coming up for air several years later (and with two small children underfoot), I’m going to have really work hard at resting. (As oxymoronic as that is.)

So. My resolution is to carve out enough space to just relax and do . . . not nothing, but sort of a focused nothing. Some time to just brainstorm a bunch of ideas, some awesome and some atrocious, so I can find something wonderful I want to do next.

I’m looking forward to this.

Favorite Reads in Your Late Teens & 20s

Our third topic: What book(s) meant the most to you in your late teens and 2os – during college or not, as you moved into adulthood?

Steve Bein:

Steve BeinSecrets of the Samurai, by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook.  This remains one of my favorite history books on the samurai.  There are books with loftier academic credentials, but you’re not going to find a more approachable text.  The artwork is killer too.  Many of the line drawings make you consider getting a tattoo.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig.  For years this was my bible.  I read it over and over again—in the library, on the beach, everywhere.  Back then I was a student of Asian philosophy, and I couldn’t afford a motorcycle.  Now that I have my bike, I think I need to reread this one.

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien.  I’d read The Hobbit in grade school, followed by many readings and re-readings of The Lord of the Rings.  It wasn’t until college that I got into the real heady stuff, but now I think The Silmarillion is the best book on my Tolkien shelf.

(Yeah, I have a Tolkien shelf.  Books by and books about.  Some are in German.  I know, I know.  I’m a nerd.)

The Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan.  Not easy books to contend with in college—not because of the writing but because of space constraints.  I think the hardcover editions took up 20% of my half of the dorm room.

The first three Dune books, by Frank Herbert.  For me these three are to sci-fi what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy: mandatory reading for anyone who claims to be a fan of the genre.  (I think the books drop off in quality pretty rapidly after Children of Dune.)

J. Kathleen Cheney:

I’d say that one of the most formative reads during that period was a book that very few people will recognize:  The Pursuit of the Screamer by Ansen Dibell (and its two sequels: Circle, Crescent, Star  and Summerfair).  Much of this was that it hit me at just the right time in my formative years, but it also had several concepts in it that I found very thought-provoking.  Now if you pick up this book (and please, ignore the lurid cover!) it will look a lot like a fantasy novel.  It’s not.  It’s science fiction dressed as fantasy.J. Kathleen Cheney

One of the book’s major plot points was the rebodying of the ‘screamers’ (an alien species called the Tek) by a giant fish brain  (the Shai) in their spaceship buried under a vast plateau.   The humans on this planet were originally put there by the Tek, and the indigenous species–the empathic Valde–were then altered by those same Tek to be able to interbreed with the humans, which unfortunately caused imbalances within their own species but granted some humans limited empathy.

So there we have it: the separation of the body and mind, empaths, genetic alteration, interbreeding of species, and a giant fish brain running a buried spaceship.  What else could we possibly want in a novel???

I admit it sounds rather crazy, but the author skillfully wove these disparate elements into a fascinating series of novels that made me think and rethink and then rethink again.  So much so that when I learned that the 4th and 5th book in the series had been published in French, I found copies of those and read them.  Amazing.

 

Beth Cato:

Being a social sciences and English geek, I read a lot in college. However, one class in particular had the greatest impact on me: Humanist and English Renaissance Literature. I discovered Donne and Milton. I loved Beth CatoEdmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, once I got into the rhythm of it, and based my term paper on it.

There was one work we read that was short yet very vital to me: “The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster. It’s a Jacobean tragedy. There is a point where the Duchess is confronted by her assassin and she says to him, ‘I am the Duchess of Malfi still.’ We discussed it in class. Normally those kinds of “what is really meant by this line” analyses made me roll my eyes, but not that time. The Duchess struck me as such a powerful character in that moment–a role model, really. At the time, I was twenty and engaged to marry a Navy sailor in a few months. I was going to move to the opposite side of the country and into a life of poverty. I was terrified. I yearned for even the slightest scrap of the Duchess’s dignity.

When I write active heroines now, I want them to be like the Duchess of Malfi. I want them to confront the bad guy, look him in the eye, and say, “You might do all of these horrible things to me, but my dignity is mine.” I still want that nobility for myself, too.

M. K. Hutchins:

I’m going to cheat and jump to one year after college.  My husband and I both graduated in 2008—straight into the recession. There were no jobs. Not even crummy, minimum-wage ones (“Oh, you have a degree? We’d rather hire a high school grad or drop out who might choose to work here long-term”). A year later—still with no steady work—I was an exhausted husk of a human being.MK Hutchins

But I was still devouring everything Brandon Sanderson puts out, so I found myself reading Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. It’s book #3 in what I think is Sanderson’s least-known series—a hilarious Middle Grade fantasy where the main character, Alcatraz, faces down evil librarians bent on world domination. I laughed so hard I fell off the bed. I laughed until my ribs hurt. I laughed like I hadn’t laughed for the past year.

That book helped me cope with the soul-sucking uncertainty of searching for work. I had energy again to pursue even the most temporary and far-fetched avenues of income—like entering recipe contents. I actually won one of those and was rewarded with a check and publication in Better Homes & Gardens.

Alcatraz also taught me there’s no way to know what effect a book will have on someone. I started writing whatever I thought was fun and interesting instead of “serious, meaningful fiction”. Both personally and professionally, the most important book I’ve read in the past decade is a comedic, fast-paced Middle Grade adventure.

Lawrence M. Schoen:

Lawrence SchoenMy undergrad years were a mess. It took me six years. Along the way I dropped out of university, lost my scholarship, worked on a loading dock, went back to a different school, changed my major three times, and eventually petitioned the university to let me design my own.

I tell you all of this because it provides the background for the book that kept me whole during that time, Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand. It’s the story of Fred Cassidy, a young man whose uncle wills a healthy stipend to his nephew until he completes an undergraduate degree. Fred chooses never to graduate! As the novel begins he’s been in school more than a decade, always changing majors one class short of a degree. He’s outlasted multiple academic advisors and authored academic papers worthy of dissertations! Fred Cassidy is the perpetual student, and he gets caught up in adventures far beyond his dreams. Friends and strangers try to kill him. Aliens disguised as animals pursue him. A missing artifact on loan from a museum on another planet sends him secret messages. If that’s not enough for you, Fred has every cell in his body rotated into its mirror opposite, which in turn changes the flavor of everything he eats and almost guarantees that he’ll be dying of malnutrition because he can no longer process right-handed proteins.

Through it all, Fred draws on insights and experiences that you’d expect from someone who has nearly completed every major at a modern university. Read this book, you come away with that same feeling. It’s empowering, creating a sense of control at a time in a young adult’s life when everything seems to be chaos.

I reread this book every semester during exam week. It put everything in perspective for me.

Fran Wilde:

The Dictionary of the Khazars, Milorad Pavić.  I can’t remember if I read this the summer before my first year of college, or the summer after, but the essential non-linearity of the book (among other things, three different cultures, with interlocking definitions, and characters that change based on which lexicon you read), changed my brain.fran_photo

Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson. This came late in college, but it sent me down the gaming rabbit hole. A skateboarding heroine and a pizza deliverator named Hiro Protagonist? You have my attention, Mr. Stephenson.

– “The Evening, The Morning, and The Night,” Octavia Butler. A short story that appeared in my university’s magazine Caillou. My introduction to Butler. The beginning of my infatuation with her work.

Paradise Lost. John Milton. (I know, I know) I did an honors thesis on this beast; I am still swept up in the micro-writing and secret messaging that goes on in the lines (words spelled down the first letters of each verse, hidden transformations of objects and narrator) along with the overarching pyrotechnics of the prose.

First Light, Richard Preston. The search for the end of the universe. The book had been out for a while by the time it got to me. I enjoyed it so much that I reflexively buy whatever Preston writes now.

What about you? What were your favorite reads?

 

Favorite Fantasy Worlds — Part Two

Hello! This is Part Two of our Vectors discussion about Favorite Fantasy Worlds. You can read Part One here.

Steve Bein

My favorite fantasy world is the one in which I wake up tomorrow morning and I realize I’m out of debt.

Oh, but you meant in other people’s fiction.

The nostalgic part of me will always hearken back to Arrakis and Middle Earth, but these days my favorite fantasy world is Bas-Lag.  This is the dark, gritty, mind-bending world of China Miéville’s New Crobuzon novels (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The Iron Council).  Miéville describes it in loving detail.  In the case of Bas-Lag, the details make your skin crawl.

Perdido Street Station 1st Edition coverFor instance, within the first few paragraphs of Perdido Street Station you come across “houses which dribble pale mucus.”  From that sentence onward, Miéville had me hooked.  Look how much he’s accomplished with just those words.  You know these houses weren’t build by human hands.  They might not have been built by hands at all.  It might have been an ovipositor that put them there.  So now you know that something inhuman lives in this city, and whatever they are, they live side by side with the human residents.  (Because had you encountered this structure on its own, you’d probably call it not a house but a hive.  Miéville is supremely sensitive to that sort of word choice.)

As soon as I finish a chapter of Perdido Street Station, I want to go wash my hands with lava soap.  That’s why Miéville has become my role model when it comes to world-building: anyone can make you see setting, but Miéville makes you feel it.

Now I’m not out to give you the heebie-jeebies.  Bas-Lag couldn’t be more different from the sixteenth-century Japan that I write about, and I’m not going to make you worry about getting house-mucus on your shoes.  But I do want you to smell the steam coming off the tea and hear the wind whispering in the bamboo trees.

 

MK Hutchins

Quintessence cover

Childhood favorites aside, David Walton’s Quintessence completely sucked me in.

I’ve got a huge soft spot for the cultural side of world building. Magic systems and cosmos are awesome; seeing the way a particular culture interacts with them is even better. Quintessence is set in an alternate 14th century where explorers are chasing the horizons for quintessence, the mysterious fifth element.

The characters have universal concerns — survival, family relationships, the search for knowledge — but they’re not just 21st century Americans awkwardly jammed into a 14th century world. They debate whether or not dissecting the human body should be a heresy. If being an atomist leaves room for God in the universe.

And, yes, the scientific-magic exploration of this fifth element is engrossing. The way the characters cleverly utilize their new knowledge is oh-so-satisfying. At its heart, this is a book about exploration, and there’s no shortage of wondrous details.

But to me, the book is truly magical because the author took as much care building the world of his explorers as he did the fantastical. As soon as I turned the last page, I knew I wanted to read this book again.

 

Michael R. Underwood

Steve stole my answer.

I adore the Bas-Lag setting. But because I love Bas-Lag so much, I’m going to talk about it anyway. So there! But I’m going to talk about the rest of Bas-Lag.

200px-TheScar(1stEd)Armada, the flotilla city – hundreds of ships tethered and bolted and bridged together to form a pirate micronation. A place where people can make a fresh start, as long as they avoid Possible Swords and the fickle ire of the Lovers.

The Cacotopic Stain, a patch of pure change – almost like magical radiation.

The Iron Council, the Renegopolis, the moving, communal, desperate, flawed attempt to make something beautiful out of a terrible situation, where workers rose up for one another, then realized how totally screwed they were, having gone against The Man.

Bas-Lag had all of that and more – sound golems, cactus people, Quantum-plurality-cutting Possible-Swords, the Avanc, the Remade, Jack Half-a-Prayer, the Handlingers (scary-badass magic spiritual cousins to Thing from The Addams Family), and more. Mieville’s concept work and setting ideas alone would have been enough to make his reputation in the SF/F world.

The fact that Mieville matched his incredible worldbuilding with baroque, mind-blistering prose and challenging politics only served to further amaze readers and writers like yours truly. I was in undergrad when I first came to Mieville’s work, and the timing could not have been better for me. The political immediacy and conceptual audacity of Bas-Lag felt so real, so relevant to my world, that I wanted to find the dingy, oozing wardrobe that would take me to his mad, marvelous, dangerous world so I could help the Iron Council finally return to New Crobuzon, then see what happens next.

 

Please comment here or on Part One and join the conversation. What are your favorite fantasy worlds?

Favorite Fantasy World — Part One

Our second topic is “What is your favorite fantasy world?” And after agreeing it would be more fun if we didn’t get to answer “Our own,” this is what we came up with:

Beth Cato

Dragonlance game book coverThe first world that comes to mind is one I haven’t even visited in well over a decade: Krynn, the world of Dragonlance. From age 12 to 18, I was utterly obsessed with Dragonlance, especially the original six books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The geography was vivid (very important to me, as a geography geek) and inhabited by the stock tropes of the genre like elves and dragons, but also had unique elements like kinder. The magic system, the gods–ah, Fizban the Fabulous!–I loved it all.

I was a total Raistlin fangirl. I had a Dragonlance calendar with a full poster of the Legends I cover, and I kept it on my bedroom wall for years. As a testimonial to artist Larry Elmore’s skill, Raistlin’s gold eyes actually seemed to follow you around the room. It was downright creepy at times.

I’ve seen several folks comment online that the writing doesn’t hold up well. I think I’m quite happy to leave Krynn as it is in my mind. To this day, if I see tattered cloth or tarp snagged on a fence, I wonder if some mage threw himself on it with a curse. And yes, I still think of Raistlin Majere and smile.

 

Brian DeLuca (Guest Librarian)

On Loving the Turtle

Discoworld by nicolscheChoosing a favorite fantasy world initially proved more difficult than you might think.  Then it was pointed out to me the answer should be obvious.  Every night for a month, I have gone to sleep with one book unread at my bedside.  A book I wanted for my birthday and that someone had to procure overseas for me because I couldn’t wait another six months for the American release: Raising Steam, the 40th book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

The Discworld is a flat disc that is supported on the back of four celestial elephants who balance on the back of the Great A’Tuin, a giant turtle swimming through the cosmic darkness.  The Disc is home to a great number of lands and people, all of them deeply rooted in traditions of typical fantasy worlds.  In the beginning, the series started out as pure satire and farce, less a series than several sub-series with reoccurring characters in shared surroundings.  It was Monty Python in print with some magic and swords sprinkled about in a nod to the fantasy crowd.

Then something happened; Discworld started evolving, both in the types of stories and characters and the world itself.  I’m not convinced that even Mr. Pratchett could tell you where or why this happened; I think it is a case of the inmates running the asylum.  The character have grown and changed, but more importantly, their world has grown and changed; unusually for a fantasy world, it has been for the better.  It is a world on the move, where rapid change leads to unexpected consequences. What I like best about Discworld is that it is not the home of unconquerable champions, god-like wizards, or infallible gods; it is home to ordinary people and creatures, who often land in unusual circumstance and do the best that they can.

As the books rush toward the conclusion of the “great work”, the author rushes to the conclusion of his own great work, losing his hard-fought fight against Alzheimer’s. I used to laugh uproariously at the books of Discworld, and often still do, but just as frequently I find myself moved, even occasionally shedding a tear by the end of each tale.  Don’t judge me…I choose to believe that it just an allergic reaction to that particular typeface! In the end, there can be no joy without sorrow and no growth without pain, and this is what I have learned from the Discworld.

 

Fran Wilde

The Invisible Cities. Yep, that’s cheating. But I’m going to cheat all over this answer because I can’t make up my mind. So. Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities contain short vignettes that, taken together, make up a map of impossible places. And I’m in love with that map. Each city that Marco Polo describes to Kublai Khan (in a language he cannot understand) is so clearly rendered, I start imagining all the stories that might be happening inside. And I get a little lost. But it’s a good lost.

A Wizard of Earthsea coverEarthsea. Magic. Islands. And sailing. When Ged boarded Lookfar and sailed her from the East Reach all the way to Selidor, I was hooked. I learned to sail around the time I first read A Wizard of Earthsea, and every creak of hull and snap of canvas rang true for me. I loved that someone could write as vividly and purposefully as that.

Pern. I think the first McCaffrey I read was Dragondrums, in the Harper Hall trilogy, and the music and Menolly’s relationship with the sea and her fire lizards was a great entry to the world. I was caught up in the fight for survival against Thread, and the amazing dragons used to do it. When I read further and realized finally that Pern was much more than a fantasy world, I was so very happy. I’ll admit that I was jealous of Menolly’s Harper-blue boots from the get-go.

Armada, the boat-city from The Scar. By now, you’re seeing a little bit of a trend. I love water, maps, unusual cities, and especially sails. China Mieville’s Armada is one of those lashed-together places that is a series of worlds within a world. The characters aboard are fascinating; the places this agglomerated city travels are amazing.

Funny, two of these are from childhood, and they’re rendered as sharply in my memory as the two that are not.

Click here for Part Two!

What are your favorite fantasy worlds? Join the conversation here or in Part Two.

Introductions

Hello! I’m Michael R. Underwood, but everywhere that isn’t my byline, I go by Mike. I’m the author of several series:

1) The Ree Reyes urban fantasies (GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, and the forthcoming ATTACK THE GEEK), about a geeky barista whose love of SF/F powers its own magic system, allowing her to geek out in order to fight evil.Geekomancy

2) The Younger Gods, an urban fantasy series about the one moral member of a family of demon worshipers who has to stop his sister from raising one of the younger gods and kicking off the apocalypse. Both the Ree Reyes and Younger Gods series are published by Pocket Star.

3) Also in 2014, I’ll be launching an epic fantasy with 47North, titled SHIELD AND CROCUS, where an aging revolutionary strikes a bargain with his oldest and most treacherous foe to turn the tide against the tyrants that control his city.

When I’m not writing, I’m the North American Sales & Marketing Manager at Angry Robot Books, including the teen imprint Strange Chemistry and crime imprint Exhibit A. Working in publishing as my day job has given me a lot of insights into the business, and means that I basically eat, sleep, and breathe genre publishing. I’m also a co-host/contributor at SkiffyandFanty.com.

I live in Baltimore with my girlfriend and our growing menagerie of stuffed animals and action figures. In my rapidly-diminishing free time, I bake homemade pizzas and study historical martial arts (especially the Iberian style of La Verdadera Destreza). You can find me at michaelrunderwood.com and on Twitter @MikeRUnderwood.

Hi! I’m Beth Cato. My debut novel is a steampunk fantasy featuring a goody-two-shoes healer, airships, espionage, and a world tree that most definitely plays favorites. CLOCKWORK DAGGER is due out in September 2014, with the sequel a year later. My publisher is HarperCollins Voyager.Beth Cato

I’ve had short stories published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, and various other places. I also write poetry and am a regular in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, with stories in twelve so far.

I write from a lair in the Sonoran Desert outside of Phoenix, Arizona, where I plot the apocalypse as I bake gazillions of cookies. I share the house with a hockey-loving husband, number-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham. I’m originally from Hanford, California. My website is bethcato.com and I can also be found on Twitter as @BethCato.

Tina Connolly here! I’m a writer and face painter in the beautifully rainy city of Portland, Oregon. I have a husband, cat, and two small kids, and we all live in a lovely old house on a hill that came with a dragon in the Ironskinbasement and blackberry bushes in the attic. (Also: no heat. We’re still working on that . . .)

My first fantasy novel, IRONSKIN (Tor, 2012) was nominated for a Nebula, and the sequel COPPERHEAD came out in October 2013. The final book in the trilogy is due October 2014, and after that comes an unrelated YA from Tor Teen called SERIOUSLY WICKED (about a girl who lives with an ~ ahem ~ seriously wicked witch.) (Find out more about all those at tinaconnolly.com)

My short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I frequently narrate stories for Podcastle and BCS, as well as run the Parsec-winning flash podcast Toasted Cake. Sometimes I have time to sleep.

Hello, this is J. Kathleen Cheney.  My debut novel THE GOLDEN CITY came out in November of 2013, and is a tale of a sereia and her quest to stop a murderer in an alternate 1902 Portugal.  The sequel, THE SEAT OF MAGIC, will be out July 1, 2014.The Golden City

My husband and I currently live in Oklahoma, but we’re actually both Texans.  We live in a comfy home in the middle of the state with two Airedale Terriers who are our fluffy masters.  Occasionally, they let me do some gardening and a bit of writing.

My work has popped up before in several magazines and anthologies, among them Fantasy Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Jim Baen’s Universe.  My novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Finalist.  Links to all my work can be found on my webpage at www.jkathleencheney.com

 —

As E. C. Ambrose, I’m the author of the Dark Apostle series from DAW books, a dark historical fantasy series about medieval surgery.  (Yeah, I know, “dark” and “medieval surgery” is kind of redundant, but I want to Elisha Barbermake sure you know what you’re getting into.)  The series started with ELISHA BARBER (7/13) and continues in July of 2014 with ELISHA MAGUS.

My short fiction has won the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction contest 2012 and is forthcoming in Fireside.  You may also have seen my non-fiction pieces “The Romance of Ruins” and “Spoiler Alert!” in Clarkesworld magazine.  I blog about the intersections between history and fantasy at ecambrose.wordpress.com and I can be found on facebook.com/thedarkapostle and on twitter @ecambrose  but the real home of all things Dark Apostle is www.thedarkapostle.com

When I’m not writing, reading grim and gory history books, or visiting strange museums, I work as an adventure guide, taking teens into the White Mountains of New Hampshire for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and campfire stories.  All of them have come home alive. . . so far.

I’m M.K. Hutchins. My debut novel, DRIFT, is a YA epic fantasy featuring a floating island surrounded by a monster-infested, watery hell. My short fiction’s been published in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and a half-dozen other places.MK Hutchins

I studied archaeology in college, where I compiled histories from Maya glyphs, excavated in Belize, and worked as a faunal analyst. I’m a long-time Idahoan, now residing in Salt Lake City, Utah with my husband and our three little boys. My website’s www.mkhutchins.com and I’m on Twitter as @mkhutchins.

I’m Lawrence M. Schoen, and I wear a lot of vocational hats. In addition to being an author, I’m also a psychologist, a small press publisher, a klingonist, and a hypnotist. I’ve had the pleasure of being nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards. I’ve had two novels and two short story collections published by Hadley Rille Books, Three of the four are light and humorous SF about my space-faring hypnotist, the Amazing Lawrence SchoenConroy, and his über-cute, alien companion animal, a buffalito named Reggie who can eat anything and farts oxygen.

After a career of more than twenty years, I’m well on my way to being an overnight success. In the summer of 2013 I sold a book proposal to Tor, and then used that sale to secure an incredible agent. The book — currently titled BARSK: THE ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD  — should come out in either late 2014 or early 2015. I expect it will change my life (and when you read it, maybe it will change yours).

Samples of my fiction, random thoughts, appearance schedules, and my weekly blog feature where visiting authors reveal their most memorable meals, can be found at http://www.lawrencemschoen.com

Hi, Fran Wilde here!  My fantasy novel, BONE ARROW, debuts from Tor in 2015. In it, you’ll find towers, manmade wings, secrets, dangers, and fierce young women and men who live their lives above the clouds. I can’t wait to share it with you.fran_photo

My science fiction and fantasy stories appear in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and the Impossible Futures anthology. For fun, I interview authors about the intersection of food and fiction with a column called Cooking the Books.

In previous lives, I learned how to tie a bunch of sailing knots, set gemstones, and program digital minions. I’ve also taught writing and digital media at two colleges, a high school for the creative arts, and a long-distance program for young writers.

My website is http://franwilde.net, I’m on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

I’m Steve Bein, creator of the Fated Blades. These books span some seven hundred years of Japanese history, all crystallized in the modern day in the story of Mariko Oshiro

Year of the DemonMariko is the only woman to make the rank of detective and sergeant in Tokyo’s most elite police unit. That makes her life pretty tough, as misogyny and tradition conspire against her at every turn—and that’s before her fate gets tied up with the deadliest swords ever forged. Mariko’s story is punctuated by historical interludes, where the same swords alter the course of destiny for a long line of warriors, from WWII officers all the way back to the days of the samurai.

The first in the series, DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD, came out in 2011, followed by YEAR OF THE DEMON last month. A companion novella, ONLY A SHADOW, is available for your e-reader, and the third book in the series, DISCIPLE OF THE WIND, is due out in October 2014. All three are published by Roc, Penguin’s fantasy imprint.

I also write short stories, which have appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. In my alter ego as a philosophy professor, I also write academic books and articles, and have translated some seminal works in Japanese Buddhism. When I’m not writing I’m usually training in the dojo or out having fun with my dogs.

Please stop by and like me at Facebook! You can also visit my website to find links, downloads, and news about upcoming appearances and events.

Hi all!  Tex Thompson here – “rural fantasy” writer, comma placement specialist, and corn-fed genius. 

Kidding about that last part.  It’s a hell of a thing, actually: despite being a total publishing rookie, I somehow managed to persuade the good people at Solaris that what the world REALLY needs is an epic fantasy Western series: you know, a little bit Firefly, a little bit Dark Tower, with cowboys and natives and fishmen and one truly bad-ass science nun.   One Night in Sixes

It’s a setting based loosely off of the American Southwest, in a world that runs on ‘culture magic’.  And although the big brutal clash of the industrialized east and the indigenous west has ended (for now) in a stalemate, all that blood and violence has seeped into the land itself, leaving behind a kind of mystical radiation poisoning that’s warping the people and creatures who live in it.  No need for Dark Lords or Chosen Ones here: as it turns out, all it takes is a couple of hopelessly ignorant cowboys, thirteen yearling horses, and one horrible accident to drag the surrendered border town of Sixes back to the brink of a past that seems hell-bent on repeating itself.

Needless to say, the rest of my life isn’t nearly that exciting.  I live in Dallas with my hetero life-mate and a refurbished cat named Peaches, and am currently serving as the editor for the DFW Writers Conference.  Please look me up there or at www.thetexfiles.com – and get ready for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, coming July 2014 from Solaris Books!