Monthly Archives: March 2015

Vectors: Anticipated New Releases

In a semi-regular feature, the members of Novelocity talk about new-or-soon-to-be-released novels that the world needs to know about.

Michael R. Underwood
PersonaPersona by Genevieve Valentine

Coming March 10th from Saga Press

I had the pleasure of repping Mechanique in the field when it was released, helping connect the book with indie booksellers across the Midwest. Then I started reading Genevieve’s hilarious and insightful articles on pop culture, from TV/film to fashion.

So when I read the description of Persona, it went on my TBR list instantly. By all indications, it’s basically all of Genevieve’s wit and snark for mass media culture wrapped around the backbone of a thriller plot.

SOLD.

LazarusLazarus Vol. 3: Conclave by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Owen Freeman

Coming March 18th, 2015 from Image Comics

I’ve been a fan of Greg Rucka for years, from his Wonder Woman work to his co-authoring of Gotham Central with Ed Bubaker, but his current Image series Lazarus is my new favorite. Set in a future where ultra-rich corporate heads are royalty in a new Feudal era, with wholly-owned serfs as their support staff and company town work force. And the rest of humanity is labeled Waste, sharecroppers at best, discarded human detritus at worst. Lazarus is one of my favorite modern dystopian narratives, with a one-two punch of action and sociological speculation.

AlexGuest post: Alex Shvartsman

1) The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Release date: April 7

Ken Liu is unquestionably one of the best speculative short story writers today, and his upcoming first novel is every bit as good as his short stories.

A secondary world fantasy in the style Liu refers to as “silkpunk,” this book (a first in a trilogy, but it reads fine as a standalone) is what you might get if you mashed together the Game of Thrones, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, so my anticipation is mostly for the opportunity to share this book is with other readers and chat about it with my friends in greater detail.

2) Sense8 TV Series (Netflix)
Release date: June 5

An original TV series written by J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) and directed by the Wachowski siblings (of The Matrix)? I don’t even care what it’s about: sign me up!

Okay, I care a little bit, and the premise seems very interesting. It’s about eight very different people from around the world, who are total strangers to each other, suddenly becoming linked to each other, both mentally and emotionally. There hasn’t been all that much info out there about the series, but everything I read makes me very curious and I will definitely be watching.

===
Alex Shvartsman is a writer, translator and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 70 of his short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. He is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories released in February 2015. His website is www.alexshvartsman.com, and
the Kickstarter for the UFO 4 anthology is here.

M.K. Hutchins
Ink and AshesApparently shiny covers and the word “ashes” is a good way to get me excited about reading. But — wow — shiny covers.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani is about a teenager who finds out that her dead father used to be a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, just as his past his catching up with her.

Ember in AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is an epic fantasy about an undercover slave working for rebel Scholars (rebel Scholars!) in exchange for their help in stopping her brother’s execution.

Both of these are debut novels. I’m excited to try out two new authors. I have high hopes I’m going to find some new favorites in these.

Seveneves

Steve Bein
#1 on the list for me: Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. A close runner-up is Dan Simmons’s The Fifth Heart. Both of these guys fall into the category of I Don’t Care What You Write Next, I’m Just Gonna Buy It.
Fifth Heart

Beth Cato
Michael J. Martinez has this amazing series that started with The Daedalus Incident. The books combine space-faring alchemy-powered British frigates and a science-fiction based human future with exploration on Mars and beyond. The two timelines converge in amazing ways. Well, the third book in the trilogy is out in May. My fangirl love for the first two books resulted in me getting to blurb The Venusian Gambit. Seriously, if you love science fiction and historical fiction, this has it all. Go forth and get the trilogy!

Signal to NoiseAnother new release I really enjoyed was Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It reminded me of a cross between Charles de Lint’s Newford and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Moreno-Garcia evokes magical realism via music in late 1980s Mexico City and balances that with the repercussions as seen in 2009. It’s one of those books that can be marketed as YA but there’s a somber depth to it that you understand a lot more as you get older.

Tina Connolly
xwakingup-ARC-coverOh, there’s always so many books I’m looking forward to. I’m sneakily stretching my top two picks to three because there are three April debuts that I’m particularly excited to see released:

Zeroboxer-final-coverWaking Up Naked in Strange Places by Julie McGalliard. I blurbed this one for Julie as “Seamlessly blends Cajun werewolves, religious cults, and Seattle prep schools in a fresh and compelling take on the werewolf mythos. I couldn’t put it down.” Which is totally true.

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, whom I recently met here in Portland. Those of you looking for space opera-y YA books, this story of Martian colonists and the new sport of weightless “zeroboxing” sounds like a fun and actiony ride.
YearoftheCow
The Year of the Cow by Jared Stone. Jared is always insightful and funny, and this book follows his adventures as he buys one entire grass-fed cow from a local rancher, and begins to cook his way through it. Recommended for anyone interested in good books about slow food.

Ken Liu
I’m really looking forward to Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The Internet has brought back and even expanded public shaming as a form of punishment, and Ronson has spent three years studying the phenomenon to tell very human stories about the people involved in these acts of public shaming. It’s being released at the end of March.SoYouveBeenPubliclyShamed

Fran Wilde
I’m looking forward to so many books in the next couple of months. But most of all, I’m looking forward to Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook. With over 150 recipes by authors including William Gibson, Gail Carriger, Connie Willis, Yoon Ha Lee and John Scalzi, the cookbook is amazing. The recipes range from delicious to hilarious to impossible (elf bbq, anyone?).

Most importantly, once it’s out, I can have my life back.

Vectors: More Mythology

Our topic for today: “What is a mythology or specific mythological creature you want to see used more in genre fiction?”

Grace_of_Kings_cover_blogKen Liu
I think of mythology in the broadest sense, as a collection of founding narratives for a culture, the stories the people tell themselves to explain their customs, outlook, history, relationship to nature and other peoples.

Much of fantasy literature seems to explore old myths in depth, with heroes warring to be king, slaying monsters on the path to achieve the return to a golden, noble age. But I’d love to see the American myth — a chiaroscuro of shining beacons and dark original sin, of men and women forging a nation that is exceptional, new, at once a city upon the hill and multiple strivings falling short of the ideal — explored more in fantasy literature, with all the triumphs and challenges that attend a pantheon of democratic ideals and a bestiary of the worst parts of our selfish natures.

Clockwork CrownBeth Cato
I love fairy tales and mythology. All of it. Back when I was in my teens, my hometown library cleared out a lot of its 1920s Andrew Lang Fairy books and N.C. Wyeth-illustrated classics. I grabbed them all, and read well beyond that. Therefore, I thought I had a pretty good background in mythology as I started to write. I know my selkies, and Coyote, and my Baba Yaga in her chicken-footed house.

Then I started to read more Chinese mythology for research.

See, I approached it with arrogant ignorance. I thought, hey, I’m pretty familiar with Japanese mythology and there are a lot of parallels. It turned out that Chinese mythology is more vast and complex than I had ever guessed, and unlike many other world cultures, it’s not integrated at all into western pop culture. I’m doing my best to educate myself, but it’s an ongoing effort. A very fun effort, I might add.

Cat RamboGuest: Cat Rambo
What creature would I like to see used more in genre? Centaurs.

Why? Because some of my favorite fantasy (and one sf) books feature centaurs. Thomas Burnett Swann, who wrote slim little books about mythological creatures that I love, frequently used centaurs, although I don’t know that I always like his bawdier-leaning versions. But John Varley’s Titan trilogy features amazing centaurs, whose names are kinds of music, and who wear body paint, the brighter the better, and braid their manes with trinkets and gew-gaws.Beast of Tabat

There’s something about centaurs. Maybe it’s the sheer improbability of them (I mean, come on, horse body and human torso just would not work in so many ways). Remember the moment in one of the Narnia books where Reepicheep (I believe) is explaining to someone how much a centaur is required to eat, just to stay alive.

But I think it’s more than that. Human and horse together touches on that love of horses that so many teenagers go through. A horse is freedom, and speed, and nature, and more than that, there’s the relationship so many young adult books depend on, between human and horse, the fodder of all the Black Stallion Novels and My Friend Flicka and Misty of Chincoteague, and all the rest.

I used centaurs in a recent fantasy story, “Hoofsore and Weary,” which appeared in Shattered Shields, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and which features a troupe of female centaur soldiers caught behind enemy lines. In doing so, I realized I was heading back to the same world where I’d written about another centaur, Fino, in a story that appeared in Realms of Fantasy, “Narrative of a Beast’s Life.” That piece in turn ties into the novel I have coming out next month, Beasts of Tabat. Maybe I’m trying to compensate for the lack of centaurs in genre literature all on my own.

Bio: Cat Rambo is the author of Beasts of Tabat. Her website is KittyWumpus.net.

Steve Bein
I think we could use more flying eight-legged horses.daulairegreek

When I was a kid, I’d check out the same two books from the library over and over again: D’Aulaires’ Greek Mythology and Norse Mythology. One of the images that always stayed with me was Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horsey.

I don’t know what evolutionary advantage there is in a horse having eight legs. I don’t know how eight legs plus zero wings equals flight. Not that myths are subject to scientific or mathematical laws; hey have their own internal logic. But even by that standard, Sleipnir is a horse of a different color.

Most of mythology is symbol, but Sleipnir doesn’t seem to symbolize anything–unlike, say, thedaulairenorse sun-horses that pull Helios’s chariot, or even Odin’s own pet ravens. Sleipnir’s primary function, it seems to me, is just to make Odin more of a badass.

So, in the name of badassery everywhere, I say we need more eight-legged horses in fiction.

WaywardVol1-585x900-webMichael R. Underwood
I double majored in East Asian Studies and Creative Mythology as an undergrad, which helped me strengthen my already-strong interest in world mythology and folklore. Unsurprisingly, when you leave Western Europe, folklore in other parts of the world was just as cool, just as rich, and on top of that, each culture’s folklore said just as much about its progenitors as Western European Folklore does, so studying that folklore gives you a different angle on understanding those cultures.

Of particular interest to me were the interwoven folkloric traditions in East Asia, and especially Japan. The Kitsune, Kappa, Tengu, Oni, Bakemono, Kami, and more, their ties to specific places, their manifestations in various dramatic forms such as Kabuki, Bunraku, and more. One current strong example of the use of Japanese folkloric creatures is the comic series Wayward, by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, and Jim Rausch.

Elisha BarberE.C. Ambrose
I am a Northwest Coast native mythology enthusiast, and I’d love to see some of those characters engaged in new ways. Sedna entered the national consciousness with the naming of that planetoid a few years ago, and Raven pops up frequently, but how about the Dzonawkwa, a child-stealing wild woman?

But what I’d really like to see is a new approach to the folklore that is used. I feel like many authors who are looking to fairytales are not only focused on the familiar Western European stories, but even more closely on the widely recognized, iconic Disney approaches and themes. Even in Grimms (which seems to have been done to death) there are some bizarre and interesting stories Disney wouldn’t touch (like the one about the girl whose talking horse gets its head lopped off–but don’t worry, the mentorship goes on).

When I’m reading folklore, I am often looking less to the specific structure or creature at hand, and more to what the story can tell me about the society that tells it, so when a Korean tale speaks of a wife whose “heart was as fine as brocade” I’m contrasting that with the American idea of someone having “a heart of gold.” That speaks to the values of the society in some interesting ways. So even if you’re not employing a specific fairytale concept, reading these stories can be a great way to think more deeply about the worlds that we build.

SummeroftheMariposasM.K. Hutchins
Shoot. I just want everything. I keep hoping that the writer and artist for The Fox Sister will be able to continue her webcomic. I burned through the entire archive in a day, not realizing it was on hiatus and I should have rationed myself.

I’m waiting for the sequel to The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and the next book in The Chronicles of Sword and Sand by Howard Andrew Jones. I periodically check Goodreads to see if Yangsze Choo has a new novel out, because The Ghost Bride was amazing. Holes by Louis Sachar felt like a brand-new fairy-tall-tale-myth, and I loved that, too. Guadalupe Garcia McCall mashed up the story of the Odyssey and a number of figures from Mexican folklore when she wrote The Summer of the Mariposas, which was also fantastic. Chupacabras!

Modern-day retellings, secondary-world fantasy retellings, mash-ups, brand-new legends and things that feel like a retelling of something that should have been in Arabian Nights and wasn’t — yes, please, I’ll take them all. And somewhere in there, it’s always fascinating and fun to go back and read the originals.

Paul BunyanGuest: Mark Finn
This question is a double-edged sword, because it speaks to my personal bias about mythology: I think we tend to use, or over-use, certain myths and monsters, not because they are close to us, but rather because they are familiar and comforting. I mean, how many of us are actually Greek? And yet, I’ve got Greek and Roman gods all over the place in my novels and stories. In a Jungian, collective consciousness kind of way, that’s all well and good. But I’m half Czech on my mother’s side and I’ve never written a story invoking any of those traditions.

I think I’d like to see a more nuanced approach to using myths and legends in fiction. For example, how many of us Americans have ever looked at our country’s cultural heritage? I’m speaking of the tall tale figures like Bigfoot Wallace and Paul Bunyan, but Native American heritage is just as fascinating to me and a lot closer to home. We should be able to speak to it with some authority, and if not, then why not? The gods and goddesses of old are simply one big metaphor anyway, so I see no problem with being a little more egalitarian in our choices.

BIO: Mark Finn is an author, actor, essayist, and playwright. He is recognized as an authority on the Texas author Robert E. Howard and has written extensively on that subject. His biography, Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, was nominated for a World Fantasy award in 2007 and is now available in an updated and expanded second edition. When he is not kvetching on the Internet, he writes comics and fiction, dabbles in magic, and produces and performs community theater. He lives in North Texas with his long-suffering wife, too many books, and an affable pit bull named Sonya.