Author Archives: RLovatt

Upcoming Changes

Hey guys!

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have noticed my post a day or so ago stating that we might be experiencing some downtime in the near future. This hasn’t happened yet, and won’t until we’re 100% ready.

We’re switching away from wordpress.com, to a wordpress.org hosted website. Almost everything has been transferred over and configured at this point besides for the domain name. We’ll be doing that shortly once we work out all the kinks in the new site and make sure it’s all shiny and polished.

For our on-site subscribers (WordPress.com Followers, not email subscribers), if you’d like to continue seeing our posts and reviews, please do consider following us via email using the widget on the sidebar. Otherwise, follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to keep up-to-date with our blog.

Thanks, and happy reading!
Rebecca

Oh — and we have a new member on our team, Gama Ray Martinez, check out his very first review here. :)

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New from Guy Gavriel Kay — CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY

Children of Earth and Sky - Guy Gavriel Kay

CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY

Guy Gavriel Kay

New American Library Hardcover

May 10, 2016

 

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…


Guy Gavriel Kay’s 13th novel, Children of Earth and Sky, is set to be released in May of next year; in it, Kay steps away from China’s Tang Dynasty and ventures into the realms of Renaissance Europe. The cover was revealed earlier today on the B&N blog.


GUEST POST: Game of Thrones: “Mother’s Mercy” Review and Recap of Season 5

[Warning! Here be spoilers]

gameofthrone

As predicted, the season finale of the fifth Game of Thrones cycle hit viewers between the eyes with numerous plot twists and cliffhangers, while the death knell tolled ceaselessly for characters both beloved and abhorred. An inclusion of controversial content and subversion of popular fantasy storytelling tropes has come to define this series, broadening its fan base to include all those who appreciate a bloody good story.

Season five saw fan favorite Tyrion Lannister journeying to Meereen to meet Daenerys Targaryen after his escape from King’s Landing. As it turns out, Daenerys was in desperate need of reliable counseling. Unable to control her dragons, she chained two of them up under a pyramid, announced an engagement to nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq, and reopened the fighting pits in an attempt to win her people’s favor.

The Sons of the Harpy, a rebel organization, were fighting her regime after her decree outlawing slavery which destabilized their way of life. Their campaign began with assaults on Daenerys’ Unsullied troops in the city streets and culminated in a tense battle at the pits, that ended with her dragon Drogon arriving just in time to fly her away to safety.

Meanwhile, at Castle Black, Jon Snow was voted Lord Commander. Many of his men came to regret this decision, when they learned of his plan to let thousands of wildlings through The Wall. Upon arriving at Hardhome to bring the wildlings back with him, Jon, his small escort, and the wildlings fought a brutal battle with four White Walkers in which vast numbers of men, women, and children were killed and resurrected by the Walkers to be added to the army of the dead.

Arya Stark traveled to Braavos and ended up training to be an assassin at the House of Black and White. Her training was derailed when she realized Ser Meryn Trant, the top name on her kill list, was also in Braavos. Arya’s sister Sansa was brought to Winterfell by Littlefinger to take part in an arranged marriage to Ramsay Bolton, the sadistic torturer whose mutilation and psychological manipulation of Theon Greyjoy transformed him into the pathetically servile Reek. Ramsay’s rape of Sansa before the eyes of Reek was a huge controversy as viewers questioned whether the act actually served the characters or was simply exploitative.

In King’s Landing, Cersei’s arming of the Faith Militant gave their leader, the High Sparrow, the power to imprison her rivals Margery and Loras Tyrell. The plan blew up in Cersei’s face when her cousin Lancel, now one of the devout, informed on her for cheating on King Robert several years back, and Cersei too now sits in a cell. Cersei’s brother Jaime went with Bronn to Dorne to bring their daughter Myrcella back home, but their mission failed when Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, intervened.

Game of Thrones is populated with at least twice as many characters as any other show on TV. This requires a large portion of table setting in the early parts of each season, as the show-runners maneuver each chess piece into play. However, as the seasons draw to a close, patient viewers are always well rewarded in final episodes.

This brings us to last night’s season finale. Subscribers can catch the episode on HBOGo, whereas the rest of us can look to television providers such as DTV and Xfinity to get caught up. Sunday night saw some of the bloodiest action yet: Theon and Sansa leapt from the walls of Winterfell following a massive battle between Bolton and Baratheon troops, Ellaria Sands murdered young Princess Myrcella by poison, Meryn Trant was killed by Arya Stark, Daenerys nearly succumbed to a gigantic Dothraki khalasar, and Jon Snow suffered a devastating death at the hands of his own men (several subplots being neglected here for the sake of brevity). In television today, there’s nothing else quite like it. The irresistible blend of fantasy, fiction and good old fashioned storytelling present in the GoT series will surely draw fans back once more to Season 6. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s the reason Game of Thrones viewers will continue to return, despite having their hearts broken, year after murderous year.

Guest post by Maria Ramos.

Follow her on Twitter


A (Slight Noisy) Audio Interview with Scott Lynch

After a weekend of stalking Scott Lynch, author of the Gentleman Bastards series back in April, he finally allowed me to corner him and ask him some questions in a noisy hallway. We spoke of The Thorn of Emberlain, and his plans for the future of his series, Super Secret Lynch #1, and zombies.

I attempted to clean the audio up a little bit, which may have caused some distortions. My apologies for that, but I hope you enjoy! Also.. I am so sorry for the 7-ish minute mark. I made a joke about doing what I did, and SJardine forced me to follow through with it.


 

For those of you unable to listen to the audio, /u/justamathnerd on reddit has provided a bit of a recap:

  • There are no major flashbacks in Thorn of Emberlain. He mentions that “since this is an even numbered book,” there won’t be flashbacks, even though he included some in Red Seas Under Red Skies. I assume that means that the next odd numbered book (the one after Thorn) will have flashbacks.
  • We’re gonna get some new “main” characters that will stick for the rest of the series, seemingly they’ll be the Spoilers So Far[1] since he describes them as Jean and Locke’s “opponents.” He talks about how there will be two concurrent stories, Jean and Locke’s as well as these new characters.
  • He can’t talk about his new project, but hopes to be able to by the end of 2015. He includes a cryptic hint: Hint[2] Who knows what that means? I’m sure people will come up with some interesting theories.
  • In response to whether there is going to be more magic or Eldren or clarification on any of that stuff, he said there will be more magic and clarification, but that “not every mystery will be revealed, and not every question will have an answer.” He says he’s a “big believer in leaving some things to the reader’s imagination and leaving some things unsolved.”
  • He hopes that Untitled Lynch #1 will be the first of a series of side-projects or standalones, but he would like the “central spine of [his] work to be the ongoing Gentleman Bastard sequence and related works, and maybe some other long fantasy series.” He likes long series, but he wants to dabble in off-shoots or projects that are unrelated as well.
  • The main Gentleman Bastard series is 7 books with some non-essential tie-ins (he has some novellas planned, so my guess is that’s what he means). The follow-up to that will be another 7 books set 20 years after the first. It will feature many of the same characters and many of the same type of situations, and will resolve the “grand story.” It will take us to the natural end of several characters’ lives, show off what happens and tie everything up.
  • He’s optimistic about speeding his pace up. He says he’s gotten it down to two years between books and wants to get it to one. He says if that was the pace, he could conceivably be done in 10 years, and jokes about how he’s “said this kind of thing before.” It sounds like he’s pretty happy with his output and pace which is all that matters, really.

 


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir : Review

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Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a good read. It’s engaging enough to be engrossing, and has enough character development and action to keep readers hooked. This review isn’t going to be pretty, but one thing for sure is that Sabaa Tahir can definitely write. I personally may have found some things lacking, but her prose was unfaltering. With some refinement that we’ll hopefully see in future novels, I think she could even be excellent.

That being said, I was disappointing in An Ember in the Ashes. I had high hopes for this title, and all the other reviews that I had read seemed overwhelmingly positive. I agree, in large part, with them. However, for me, An Ember in the Ashes wasn’t enough. For those of you whom have been reading fantasy (or really, any genre fiction) for any length of time, the love triangles, and almost all plot twists/major developments will be painfully predictable. I can see this as being a good read for someone who needs something “light” after reading a heavy series, or for readers just getting into the genre.

It’s odd to call this book light, when it’s set in a world with merciless killings, brutality, and the fact rape is used as a plot device to move the story along (I’m not opening that can of worms in this review though.) It still managed to feel like a lighter read though, due to the fact that we’re only told about the brutality of the world, never really shown besides for at the very beginning of the book. This — the telling and not showing, did lead to a disappointing lack in world building. I’m hoping it’s something that gets expanded upon in the sequel, and that we do get to see more of the world and get some actual descriptions; as it stands, it kind of felt flat, as though the backdrop of a play was changed and barely alluded to.

I don’t mean for this to sound all bad. I got through this book in a couple of sittings, and I will probably read the sequel when it comes out. I didn’t love this book, I didn’t think it was a sensational masterpiece, or even really innovative, but I did enjoy it. Based on other reviews, and the fact that Paramount optioned it in a 7-figure deal does clearly show that it’s a loved book, just not by me.


If you’re interested, we’ve included a brief sample of the audiobook:


[GUEST POST] Three Urban Fantasy Books to Read

Most of us have watched urban fantasy series at some point in our lives, from the 1997 hit American show Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the more recent Supernatural series starring the amazing Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (Winchester Brothers). However, how many of us have actually read epics that provide as much action and suspense as the aforementioned series? If you enjoy reading books as much as you take pleasure in watching urban fantasy stories, you might want to consider giving these novels a try.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere explores the story of a businessman named Richard whose life changed forever when he stopped to help a desperate young girl helpless on a nearby road. When the girl, named Door, recovered the next morning, she begged Richard to find Marquis de Carabas — a man who will be able to help her escape from two inhuman assassins that are trying to kill her. Why are assassins after the seemingly harmless young girl and how can the Marquis save her from the dark recesses of the city? Richard sets out on a quest to find the answers to many unanswered questions, when both Door and the Marquis mysteriously disappear after meeting in his apartment.

 

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

Atticus O’Sullivan is one of the last surviving druids – soothsayers of the ancient Celtic religion — in the world. The 21-century-old druid lives in Arizona and earns a living by running a bookshop.

Atticus was living a peaceful life until his immortal enemy, a Celtic god, found him. Apparently, Atticus has something that the god wants, which is a very powerful sword called “The Fragarach.” In order to take the sword away from him, the Celtic god sends in Atticus’ way powerful werewolves disguised as lawyers, seductive goddesses of death, and many other temptations that can make even the strongest of men drop their guard.


Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

According to Mayfair Casinos, London is one of the most exclusive areas in the world where for hundreds of years, the rich and elites met in private clubs. However, who would’ve thought that apart from the upper class, angry ghosts and mischievous gods also convene in the most populous city of England?

That’s what Probationary Constable Peter Grant found out when he gained top secret information from an eyewitness who is actually a wraith. Peter’s ability to talk with the dead brings him closer to Detective Thomas Nightingale, who works on cases with supernatural elements. Grant and Nightingale must work together in order to solve the creepy ghosts possessions plaguing the city and the brewing war between two old gods of the River Thames.

Guest post by Allie Cooper
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GUEST POST: Game of Thrones “The Wars to Come” Review

gameofthrone

As usual, the season premiere of Game of Thrones served primarily to set the table for the next 9 episodes and catch us up with much of the show’s gigantic cast of characters. That doesn’t mean the episode was without incident, though. A slit throat, political scheming, full frontal nudity, a man burned alive and some intriguing new character interactions were more than enough to whet viewers’ appetites alongside all the necessary exposition. Of course, this will contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet it’s best to watch it asap (through platforms like Vudu or DirecTV) and then come back here for the recap.

Like much of the series so far, “The Wars to Come” focused on fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (brilliantly played by Peter Dinklage hot off his Emmy robbery last year), in exile from Westeros after murdering his father Tywin, and in the company of one of the series’ most mysterious and notorious schemers, Varys the Spider (Conleth Hill). As the pair of them recuperate in Pentos, Tyrion seems determined to drink himself into the grave, but Varys aims to convince Tyrion to use his talents in the service of one of the most prominent contenders for the throne: Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) could use the help, too. Unloved by the nobles of Meereen after sacking their city, freeing all its slaves and taking up residence in its Great Pyramid, the young queen has had to contend with civil unrest, political pressure to reopen the fighting pits, and a surprising inability to control her dragons, who she’s chained up in a large underground dungeon. Her largest dragon, Drogon, has not been seen for weeks since he roasted a farmer’s daughter in the countryside. If there’s two guys who possess the political and tactical savvy to help her out of this mess, it’s Tyrion and Varys.

Meanwhile, Daenerys’ rival for the throne Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is stationed at Castle Black following a spectacular battle in which his army showed up to support the Night’s Watch against 100,000 wildlings led by Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds). Stannis, who wishes to add the wildling forces to his own, offers Mance a choice: bend the knee and swear fealty or be burned alive. Mance, ever a man of principle, chooses the latter, despite the urging of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). Jon’s respect for Mance runs deep enough that he kills him with an arrow in an act of mercy before the flames can consume him.

The premiere was also notable for who it didn’t show. Brandon Stark, who after a long and arduous journey arrived at a cavern under a weirwood tree and met a powerful wizard, will be nowhere to be seen this season, presumably because the show runners have reached the end of his book storyline, but also because the show needs to make room for the ever growing number of players on its already crowded stage. We haven’t even got to the kingdom of Dorne, where the royalty will be seething over last season’s brutal death of the much-loved prince Oberyn Martell. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), another fan favorite, is en route to the port city of Braavos. And of course there’s Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), the turncloak who betrayed his childhood friend Robb Stark to try to please his father, only to end up in the clutches of the depraved lunatic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

As usual, we can expect the unexpected. Game of Thrones excels at visceral and unpredictable storytelling, where we find ourselves rooting for scoundrels and detesting characters we previously loved. No matter what happens, we have an exciting 9 episodes ahead of us. Next Sunday can’t come quick enough.

Guest post by Maria Ramos.

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Maria Ramos will occasionally be joining us (once every month or so) to do a guest post. Many of her posts will be regarding various topics surrounding Game of Thrones.

If you enjoyed her post, please like/comment and make her feel welcome!

-Rebecca L


Update Regarding Hugo Nominations

For those of you who aren’t following Sasquan on Facebook, or aren’t on their mailing list, they announced earlier today that there have been two modifications made to the Hugo ballot, as two of the nominees were ineligible.

  1. In the Best Novelette category, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House) was originally published online in 2013 prior to its appearance in that collection.
    It has been replaced by “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  2. In the Best Professional Artist category, Jon Eno was replaced by Kirk DouPonce. Eno didn’t publish any qualifying artwork in 2014.

The complete ballot with the incorporated changes:


Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)

  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)

  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)

  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)

  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)

  • Julie Dillon
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)

  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)

  • Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)

  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)

  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond

For more information on Sasquan and the Hugo Awards, go to: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/nominations/


Interview with Larry Niven

I’ve conducted many interviews over the years of running this blog. Some have been with bigger authors than others, and with each of them I’ve had some feelings of nervousness. I tend to gripe about that to those around me in the hours preceding an interview. With this interview, be glad you weren’t anywhere near me in the days leading up to it.

It’s not so much that I am, or was, terrified of Larry Niven. He’s an absolutely sweet guy and a pleasure to chat with. No, the issue came with the 130 or so people who would be watching this interview. I don’t do public speaking… So, for those of you whom will be listening to the audio, I’d like to apologize in advance for how terribly awkward I was.

[For convenience LN = Larry Niven and RL = Rebecca Lovatt, and TD = Tom Doherty].

RL: I’m Rebecca Lovatt, a fantasy reviewer for the Arched Doorway. I am here with Larry Niven, who probably needs no introduction since you are here anyways.

LN: If you need an introduction, check your program book.

RL: Obviously everyone [here] knows who you are, so could you tell us a story about yourself that we don’t know?

LN: Give me a minute. Hmm. Yes I’ve got stories that you don’t know. I’m just trying to select.. Let me tell you a longish story, ok?

RL: Alright.

LN: There’s a movie out, or it came out a few years ago called Battlefield Earth. Many of you are nodding your head, you’ve all seen it. Here’s my story. I’m a judge for the Writers of the Future and Galaxy Press which are Scientologists and I get along with them mostly. It’s easy and they are doing good in the world. They are giving the first big breaks to a number of science fiction writers and other writers too. Anyone who has a pulpish mind could compete for these. 

The rewards are great, not just money, though there’s money… thanks to me. But publicity also. Ok, they made a movie called Battlefield Earth and they were ready to publicise it in their usual way, which was flamboyant and get it done. They invited several, perhaps all, of the judges of Writers of the Future, and they ran a red carpet up and down Hollywood Boulevard, up and across and back down, and put up stadia and invited a lot of fans to sit in the stadia and watch us walk the red carpet.

So that’s the first time that me and my wife Marilyn had done such a thing. It was fun. We go into Grauman’s Chinese which I had been familiar since I was a kid. Grauman’s Chinese now called something else; pavilion in the front, built in the grand style that was popular when movies were just coming on the scene. We collect free popcorn and soft drinks and look around. There are two more judges and their wives, that is Jerry Pournelle and Roberta Pournelle, and Tim Powers and Serena Powers.

We obviously all gather, we don’t see any other judges and we are waiting for the movie to start and Jerry says “What are we going to tell Joni?” Joni Labaqui is the publicity director for Galaxy Press–and for Battlefield Earth of course. There is no avoiding her because we are going to be crossing the street and have dinner in the building next door. The Galaxy Press building. Jerry says “cause the movies going to be awful” and we all nod our heads. There’s a ghastly silence and I said “I’m going to tell the exact truth” and Tim says ‘that’s horrible idea’, and tells an awful story about rejecting a bad story as a judge and then lying to the guy who had written it.

Now the movie comes on, and many of you have seen it, it’s wild, and Jerry’s position is that the guy who played the head villain was the only big name they actually had, because he’s a Scientologist, and nobody was willing to tell him when he was overacting. So you saw the movie, make your own judgement. The movie ends and we spill toward the restrooms. A young lady intercepted me and says she was Joni’s acolyte and how did I like the movie? And I said, “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.”

We use the restrooms and we spill out into the lobby. I link up with Marilyn, we find Jerry and Roberta outdoors and Jerry says “did Joni’s acolyte get to you?” and I said “Yeah.” and I told him what I said and Jerry laughed. And then Tim and Serena appear, and Tim is distraught; he’s in great distress, Joni’s acolyte got to him and asked him how he liked the movie, and he said “it was the best thing since Shakespeare.” Or some such, he said “it was a wonderful work of art and bound to win an Oscar.” She said she wanted to videotape him. Jerry then says, “Niven is a master of diplomacy” and told Tim what I had said–came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did. That was that, until the next morning because we went to dinner but we didn’t run across Joni.

Joni Labaqui phones me at 10AM at my office at home and she says, “What did you think of the movie?” and I said that “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.” and Joni laughs like a maniac and then she says “that is exactly what Tim Powers told me.” You’re never going to read this story because I don’t dare write it.

RL: Alright thank you for that.

So Ringworld, you returned back to that in 2009 with Ringworld’s children..

LN: Oh okay, I have trouble keeping track. 

RL: So what was it like returning back to that?

LN: Uhm, it went like this–Ringworld in 1970 I think, and then Ringworld Engineer is 10 years later, and then the Ringworld Throne 15 years later, and then Ringworld’s Children not very long after that. A few years, a couple of years, I don’t know. 

Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers… Robert Heinlein said they read like one long novel, which I thought was wonderful. Particularly since it had taken me so long to write the sequel.  This is David Gerrold style, if you guy’s have been following The War Against the Chtorr you probably got old doing it. That’s the way it was with the Ringworld series.

The Ringworld Throne… that’s when Barbara Hambley phoned me and said “I’m putting together an anthology of women vampire stories called Sisters of the Night, and two of my regulars bailed out. Would you give me a vampire story?” I said, “I don’t do vampire stories.”

She said Ringworld vampires from Ringworld Engineers and I started thinking and a whole novel involved, including a novella that was too big for her book so she had to publish a section of it.

Ringworld’s Children emerged from the internet, there’s a website that exists just to discuss my stuff, at least on the surface and they were arguing about ‘Could Seeker have had a child from Teela Brown?’. The answer to that one was no, but they had the wrong answer, you don’t get a story out of me unless you’ve got the wrong answer.

Lets see that’s the story of the Ringworld Sequence up until Ed Firman wanted to write stories that started with the Fleet of Worlds as described in Ringworld. Ed wrote five books essentially with me, but using my stuff and without much input from me in the way of text. The last one followed Ringworld’s Children. You’re up to speed on the Ringworld without those stories, you can read them for fun, they are good, but canonical they are not quite.

RL: Alright thank you, and I believe after almost every one you’ve said you will not be writing more in the series.

LN: That’s correct.

RL: Will you be writing more in the series?

LN: Just like I have been telling you for about 40 years now, I am not going to write more in the series.

RL: Any hints as to when we can look forward to you not writing more in the series?

LN: I have no ambition to write more about the Ringworld. I sent it out of sight, it’s out of reach of known space, and let’s leave it that way.

RL: Alright then, is there anything you are currently working on, or anything we can look forward to from you that’s not Ringworld related?

LN: Sure. You’ve seen the Dream Park series? There are four books in Dream Park and Steven Barnes is tired of them, my collaborator. Steven wanted to write a swords and sorcery novel and that sounded like fun. We set it in the Magic Goes Away series, in which history shows that magic grows less powerful as you approach the present. It’s called the Seascape Tattoo. Let me tell you about the Seascape Tattoo, we’ve got a character who resembles Conan the Sumerian and his name is Aros. Aros has got lot’s of scars, and some of those scars he’s had them tattooed. 

[Larry stood up and began pointing to different parts of his chest at this point. I’m also not sure on the spelling of the character’s name. Aros could be wrong.]

Your first sight of Aros is without a shirt, he’s got a seascape with ships down here, and a sun up here and maybe there are two suns because he got bitten by some spiders once upon a time and that left marks, and he got slashed with a sword. It’s easy to see he got slashed by a sword because that’s the horizon, and ships down here.

Sounds like a detail but we made a good use of the seascape tattoo, and there is some time travel involved and some magic. Aros is one of the main characters and the other is a wizard. They don’t get along too well at first. You’ll be seeing this in maybe a year, we want to fiddle with the ending. What else? You’ve seen Shipstar and The Bowl of Heaven, read The Bowl of Heaven first because this is a two-part novel. Steven, Jerry Pournelle and I are working on a novel. We’re just getting it started. This is set in the Legacy of Heorot universe, I guess this is a good time to apologise for that title, it is my fault.

Jerry and I were going to write a short story with intent to win a Nebula Award, and we chose a high falutin title that only an English student would recognise, and I regret we kept it. But it’s a good series, it’s among the best things I’ve done and we did it with Steven Barnes, and did a lot of lecturing. It was a crazy scene, Steve would appear with a block of text on his computer and Jerry and I would tear into it and rebuild it. And that’s an awful experience, except it’s also an education, and Steve took it as an education.

We did that with what is by now two novels plus a novella called the Secret of Blackship Island that is only on your computer. Plus the one we’ve just started which doesn’t have a name yet.

RL: Alright thank you, I know I for sure am looking forward to those, and I reckon there is probably one or two people in here who are as well. 

As you’re speaking of collaborators… What are some of the challenges that you face when you’re with new authors that you are collaborating with, or just in general when you are doing collaborative works?

LN: I do a lot of collaboration and I like it. But every collaboration is different from all the others. There are a few basic rules and I wrote about them once 20 or 30 years ago and they haven’t changed much. You don’t collaborate with a novice, and you don’t collaborate with someone you don’t trust to come through. You get that trust by talking about a collaboration until you are both sure. That is recreation, you are not doing work until you write text, you’ve got to think of it that way. 

You’re going to do about 80 percent of the work, collaborations are about 160 percent as much work as a solo flight, because of the interaction factor. You’re doing it to get a better book, if you think you can do it better alone you should write it alone. This has worked out for me throughout my entire career.

Including the first novel which was written totally for fun with David Gerrold, the Flying Sorcerer’s, with a title like that you know it’s not intended to be serious. We rebuilt the space program using balloons on another world, a world of two suns.

What was the question again?

RL: What are some of the challenges you face on collaborative works?

LN: Yeah, challenges with collaborators. It’s the communication thing. Let me tell you this, tell you a little long… Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were within range of me, because they were publicizing Good Omens. A book I highly recommend, it’s wonderful. I have read it more than once, and that’s unusual.

Terry’s plane had been delayed by six hours, I took him home, I didn’t know what we were going to do there but it wound up we started talking collaboration, and we were going to write a book together involving a beanstalk. We had a lot of fun, but at the end of it were weren’t going to write it. Writing it with Terry Pratchett would have been a disaster, he writes so much faster than I do.

He would have run away from me and it would have been all Terry. That is the only challenge I can lay out as something you’ve got to face, if your pacing is different you’re in trouble. If your collaborator gets a stroke you’re in trouble. So you may have to face finishing it yourself, that’s not my story, that’s Arthur Clarke and Frederik Pohl. 

Frederik Pohl finished it for the title. His most recent Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke, but by then Clarke was not able to write anymore and what Frederick started with was a handful of notes. You’re taking a chance when you start a book of your own as well. You don’t know you’re capable of finishing it, you always could before if you’ve got a record. But your first one, god knows.

My first was a novella that appeared in Worlds Of Tomorrow magazine, and Fred Pohl took it down to Betty Ballantine and suggested it could become a novel. I didn’t know how to expand it into a novel, I didn’t know I could do that. It turned out I could, but it’s just under 60,000 words which is tiny by today’s standards. Writing is a risk, if you’re going to do it, don’t do a collaboration yet if you’re just starting.

Particularly don’t do it with someone who is just starting, because he doesn’t know and you don’t know and it’s a big risk.

RL: Alright, just keeping with that last bit do you have any other advice for people who may be looking to get into writing perhaps? 

LN: Ok. I ran across a woman at a convention party room and she said as follows. When we got into conversation she said ‘I’ve talked to some of the best writers in the field. I’ve talked to Anne McCaffrey, Gordy Dixon and several big names and they gave me advice on how to write and I still can’t seem to produce anything.’ 

And I said tell me a story, and she blocked. If you don’t have a story there is no point in getting good advice. What else could I tell you? There are mechanics you need to understand, and the truth is, I don’t anymore. My memory reaches back to when the tools of a writers trade included a reel of paper and the delusion that you were talented. I got that off a cartoon, but also you needed scissors and scotch tape. You’d use those instead of rewriting a whole page to fix one line. you need lines that were that much apart [he indicated with his fingers] so you’d have room for notes scribbled in. That was for your first draft and intermediate drafts.

Your final draft had to look neat, so you had to do it all over again. Everyone my age remembers whiteout, which is used to erase, and lots of people my age remember the selectric II typewriter, which would do your erasing for you. There were two ribbons, one was whiteout. You would type the whiteout letter over the one you wanted to remove, and it would be blocked, not gone. You could still tell it was there but you could fix it. And Jerry once reminded me that if you hit the wrong letter at the start of a sentence you would spend a few seconds trying to rewrite the sentence trying to start with that letter. I’m reminding some of you, and telling the rest of you that this was the way it was before computers. Computers are wonderful.

Advice for writers? Get yourselves a computer and understand computers. Harlan Ellison still writes with a typewriter but I don’t recommend this. In fact I don’t recommend trying to write like Harlan Ellison. It’s too difficult, and certainly never try to write like Ray Bradbury, it is too difficult.  Ray has ruined a lot of good writers.

RL: Thank you, and can you tell us about Niven’s Law? 

LN: Well, sure, why not? Niven’s Laws have changed over the years, but these are what I figured are basic truths. Not always though, one of the basic truths is to never let a waiter escape. A waiter hovering over your elbows while you’re in deep conversation is rude, don’t do that.  Remember that the waiter doesn’t have to come back, or doesn’t have to come back at your convenience.

But basics, Niven’s Laws One: A and B. Never throw shit at an armed man. Never stand next to somebody who’s throwing shit at an armed man. Most of you probably don’t remember the 1964 democratic national convention in Chicago. Outside there were people called Yippies and they were throwing shit in baggies at the policemen, forgetting that the uniform doesn’t matter if you go straight to the hind frame through the nose. It’s basic.

Lets see… I’m not remembering all of Niven’s Laws, but there is an important one and it’s wordy, sorry about that. Sorry about that, I always try to be as concise as I can, always. But there is no cause so truthful, so good, so clearly virtuous that you cannot find a fool following. Next time you liberals read some quote from Rush Limbaugh remember that there are  conservatives who are as bright as you are. You can always find a fool following a cause you want to denigrate.

Others… well there’s Fuzzy Pink’s Law, my wife’s law is never waste calories. whether you eat that hot fudge sundae is up to your doctor and your dietitian, but whether you eat a bad hot fudge sundae is a violation.

As for the rest of Niven’s Laws you can find them. There is a book called Niven’s Laws that was put out by one of the convention publishers.

RL: Alright thank you very much, and what would you say your proudest moment has been over the course of your writing career?

LN: I’ve been told that I am this year’s Grand Master for the Science Fiction Writers of America. I’m very proud of that, but I was very proud of my first Hugo Award for Neutron Star, and all subsequent Hugo Awards too. I think that stopped around 1975, I haven’t had a Hugo in a dog’s lifetime, in two dog’s lifetimes. But I’ve won other awards, but those I think were the most important. That first Hugo really nailed that for me, I was going to be a writer.

RL: I think by the time you’ve won a Hugo you probably already are a writer.

LN: Yeah, and you wouldn’t think I’d need verification, and you’d be probably right. Getting published was a very proud moment. A check for 25 bucks from Frederick Pohl for the Coldest Place, a story that was obsolete before it was published. Many or most of you know that story–the coldest place in the solar system was supposed to be the back side of Mercury because Mercury was supposed to be a one face world. Facing the sun with just one face as the Moon faces the Earth with just one face, and then some Russian scientist demonstrated that Mercury can’t keep an atmosphere it’s too small. It loses its atmosphere at all times, the difference is that Mercury is close enough to pick up more atmosphere, hydrogen atoms, protons from the solar wind at all times. So there will be an atmosphere to carry heat from the hot side. 

That was the problem till someone else demonstrated that Mercury rotates one and a half times per year so that there aren’t any spaces on Mercury that don’t see sunlight except at the poles.

So, obsolete.

RL: And I’m going to ask you a question that you probably aren’t going to like. Who is your favorite author?

LN: How many people do I want to insult? No I can’t name a favorite author. In particular I have this software problem, or character flaw, I can’t remember peoples names easily. So by the time a new writer has established himself I still haven’t memorized his name. I haven’t memorized his name until he is middle aged author. So I would be ignoring some really good writers. 

There is one called Stephenson? Snow Crash.

RL: Neal Stephenson 

LN: Yeah, I like him very much. Once upon a time, no writer really likes to name all writers he doesn’t like as much as this one. Arthur C. Clarke was in town and do for a party to be held at Jerry Pournelle’s that night, but that morning he was on a radio show and they asked him “who’s your favorite writer?” He said “Larry Niven”, and then he had to apologise to Jerry. In fact he felt called on to apologise to Jerry, who forgave him almost at once. 

RL: Thanks, and my apologies for that. So of all of your books, which one would you say was the most difficult one to write?

LN: That’s easy, there was Destiny’s Road. I had this neat idea for a spacecraft that leaves a colony, winding around to leave a lava surface as a road for future generations and disappears off into the distance and never comes back. 

Pick it up 200 years later with a kid growing up and write a man’s life story. A life story in fiction is likely to be until he is in his 30s or 40s, because you probably don’t want to carry on till his death. I didn’t at any rate, but I flinched from writing a man’s life story. Robert Heinlein did it all the time, I had never done it before.

I turned in Destiny’s Road four years after the contract lapsed, and occasionally it got mentioned by Bob Gleeson and Tom Doherty, but they never nagged me. I guess they had faith I’d come through, or else their business plans included a few failures. At any rate I’m extremely proud of Destiny’s Road, and there was a reviewer who said ‘Niven usually does fireworks. He doesn’t in this book, but without the fireworks going, by god the man could sing.’

As I say I’m proud of it. 

RL: That’s awesome, and you should be proud of it. It’s a good read.

LN: Thank you. 

RL: Which do you prefer, ebooks or paperback?

LN: Ebooks or paperback? Of course there are three choices, the third being hardback.

RL: I just meant physical copies…

LN: I don’t have a preference, I’ll sell it to you in any form. I like ebooks a lot more than the publishers do; the publishers are having trouble with their sales. I’ve talked with Tom Doherty on this and his take is that it’s ruining the field. It’s destroying the bookstores, people used to wander into bookstores because bookstores used to be right next to the bakery or something. 

And if they wandered in they would walk out with a book, they don’t do that anymore. They have to consciously want to buy a book and go looking for it, or something that will suit. That’s Tom’s take and I don’t say he’s wrong.

TD: I didn’t say that ebooks were ruining bookstores, what I said was they served a different need entirely. What they do — if you know what you want they are great. They are not great for discovery, there is too much out there. It’s like finding needles in haystacks, if you don’t know what you want. If you want your backlist, it’s great; you can look there and find it all. But for new authors it’s much harder, there is good stuff out there but there is an awful lot of bad stuff too. 

We get a lot of feedback on Tor.com and people are so disappointed by the last three books they bought, because they bought books from just a couple of lines. They weren’t edited, they weren’t polished, and the person didn’t have a particular talent. Now there’s very talented people out there too, but it’s very hard to take the time to tell the difference on the internet.

LN: If you heard that, good. If not, Tom will be around and he’s going to be on panels so you can get this elaborated. The one thing he said that is well-worth noticing… and what was it? Sorry guys it’s Saturday morning after a Friday night with a lot of music. 

My point however is… I work through my agent Eleanor Wood, who puts my lapsed stories from my backlist onto the internet, and I’m getting 85 percent royalties. I got 4 percent royalties from World of Ptavvs (my first novel), and I’m used to getting 8. It’s hard to fight that Tom.

TD: It’s hard to fight that if you’re Larry Niven, and people are looking for your stuff. 

LN: Yeah, that’s the point I wanted to make. Tom’s point is that if you’re a well-established writer everything is golden for you on the internet. If you are a novice, how are you going to get noticed? Your editor from a magazine isn’t going to run down the street to Betty Ballantine with a something that could become a novel. Betty is in another field now, and the bookstores keep closing, and the publishers need to notice you.

People complain about the editors these days, they aren’t doing as much work to produce a really good book out of something that is the high end of mediocre. They used to do that, well Bob Gleeson still does that, but they don’t all.

RL: Thank you, and I have to say it’s probably quite nice having the person you’re quoting in the audience to correct you as you quote them.

LN: Yeah, I was hoping that would happen.

[The second half of the interview was a Q&A with the audience. If you’d like to listen to that. It starts around the 38:30 mark.]

RL: Alright, thank you everyone for coming to listen, and thank you Mr. Niven!


The Zombie Combat Field Guide: A Coloring and Activity Book For Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma : Review

zombie

The Zombie Combat Manual provided potential zombie fighters with comprehensive instructions on how to do battle in the inevitable outbreak of an undead plague. However, even the most comprehensive advice is useless without study and practice.

Thus, the Institute for Undead Combat Studies has created an essential field handbook to help combatants of the walking dead hone their fighting skills, ensuring maximum preparedness for the zombie apocalypse. This interactive guide includes:
Detailed technique illustrations, anatomical diagrams, and zombie combat drawings you can color
Puzzles and brain exercises to help remember key combat terminology
Work pages on making the right choices during an undead outbreak
and much more!
Anyone can become an effective warrior against the walking dead. Make sure you’re ready to fight when the time comes—or prepare to join the zombie horde…

When I first accepted the offer to review this title, I didn’t take the time to consider the fact that not only had I never reviewed a colouring book before, I also had no idea how to review one. What would I say? That the lines were especially easy to stay within, without being too confining to ones artistic creativity? That the outlines of the undead creatures were really inspiring, and that I didn’t put down my crayons until even the gaps in the letters were filled in?

IMG_20150106_134304

Fair warning, it will try to make you do exercise.

 

Fortunately, after going through The Zombie Combat Field Guide, I found that my worries were (mostly) unfounded. This activity book was a delight, and I enjoyed it.

Receiving this activity book in the mail was the most excited I’d ever been about receiving a colouring book in years. There’s more to this little booklet than meets the eyes.. There are questionnaires and trivia, and illustrated guides. All for the sole purpose of getting you prepared for the hoards of the undead.

This is something that primarily pre-teen/young teenage boys would enjoy the most. Scratch that. No. This is an essential item for every zombie lover, with a desire to spend an evening colouring, and learning their role in the apocalyptic world. You will finish this activity book with a working knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your enemy. You’ll know how best to defeat them, and what weapons will be able your best option. In short, if you’ve ever wondered where the best place to stab a zombie in the head is for maximum effectiveness, then this is for you.

The Zombie Combat Field Guide: A Coloring and Activity Book For Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma was released today, January 6th 2015.

I received a free copy of this publication from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Most Anticipated Fantasy Books of 2015

Happy New Year!

Continuing with yesterday’s post (Best Books of 2014), here are the books we’re looking forward to the most in 2015. Descriptions, release dates, and covers have been added where possible.

Shane’s (SJardine):

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinderspires #1) by Jim Butcher:

The Cinder Spires is set in a world “of black spires that tower for miles over a mist-shrouded surface” and follows a war between two of the Spires: Spire Albion and Spire Aurora.

It’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. There are goggles and airships and steam power and bizarre crystal technology and talking cats, who are horrid little bullies. – From Goodreads

I’m not 100 percent positive that this book will be published in 2015, but I really hope it is. Jim Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and if anyone can pull off a great Steampunk novel, he can.

Fool’s Quest (Fits and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb:

This will be the continuation of Hobb’s the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and I find myself checking daily to see if any more information has been released about it. I can’t wait to find out what happens after the events of Fool’s Assassin. Fitzchivalry Farseer never seems to catch a break.

Tentative publication date: August 11th 2015 by Del Rey

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews:

magicshifts

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her Mate, former Beast Lord Curran Lennart, have broken with Pack, but Curran misses challenges of leading, so he grabs when Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild. As a veteran merc, Kate can take over Guild’s unfinished jobs, not knowing they are connected. An old enemy has arisen.Goodreads

The Kate Daniels series is another Urban Fantasy series I’ve discovered in the last few months that I burned through in just a couple days. The name Magic Shifts sounds like it will describe this next book perfect, everything is starting to change for Kate and Curran.

Expected publication: August 4th 2015 by Ace

The Iron Ghost (Copper Promise #2) by Jen Williams:

ironpromise

Beware the dawning of a new mage…

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking… – Goodreads

I don’t think this series has a publisher in the US yet, so I’m probably going to have to convince one of my friends across the pond to send me a copy. I enjoyed the first one enough that I’m willing to pay international shipping just to get my copy of it.

Expected publication: February 26th 2015 by Headline

Continue reading


The Arched Doorway: Year in Review 2014

It’s been an exciting year for us here at the Arched Doorway. We had two new members join our team — SJardine and MelissaKat. We owe at least half of this year’s posts to SJardine, who took the reigns while I was unable to tend to the site.

For me, this past year has been a fantastic one. I traveled through New Zealand; Neverland’s Library was released; I attended Ad Astra, Phoenix ComicCon, World Fantasy Con, and a couple of others; I got to interview Tom Doherty at the Tor office, (something that I’m still slightly mindblown over); I’ve seen and met many other great people over the course of the year; and I’ve made new friends, and met old ones (in person) for the first time.

It’s been a fairly decent year for the blog as well, a bit slower than previous years, but altogether decent. Below is a (mostly) complete archive of this year’s posts, separated into different categories.

Anyways, thanks for reading, and for a wonderful 2014. I look forward to sharing 2015 with all of you.

Best wishes and happy New Year,
Rebecca Lovatt


 

Interviews

Steven Erikson
Patricia Briggs
Mark Lawrence
Tom Doherty
Robin Hobb
Kenny Soward
Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviews

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back, by Ian Doescher
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher
The Treasury of the Fantastic edited by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman
A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish
Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran
Relic of Death by David Bernstein
Surrogate by David Bernstein
The Wurms of Blearmoth by Steven Erikson
Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey
No True Way by Mercedes Lackey

Elderwood Manor by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes
The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks
The Exiled by William Meikle
Shifting Shadows: Stories From the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs
Black Out by Tim Curran
Mercury Revolts by Robert Kroese
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe
Rise of the King: Companion Codex, II by R.A. Salvatore
Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
The Last Mile by Tim Waggoner
War Cry by Jim Butcher
Willful Child by Steven Erikson
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
The Copper Promise by Jen Williams
Under the Skin, by Michael Faber
Crimson Son by Russ Linton
Tinkermage by Kenny Soward
Facial by Jeff Strand
Dragons at Crumbling Castle (Special Edition), by Terry Pratchett

Miscellaneous

Writing “Flawed” Characters
Miles Cameron Identity Reveal
A New Door Opens (Editing Services)
Compilation of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges Completed by authors
Congratulations to the 2014 Hugo Award Winners
BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues
Best Books of 2014


Best Books of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, it seemed fitting to look back over the past year and share our favourite reads. There are some duplicates, and there are quite a few we didn’t review… but read on, and share your thoughts!

Meagan’s (ARamone):

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe

What if

What If? is a good read for scientifically-minded and just plain curious people alike. With often high-end science being explained in a down-to-earth, accessible way, this book is going to make you laugh while also making you think.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle, by Terry Pratchett

Dragons

A collection of Pratchett’s earliest work, written and published in his teenaged years, Dragons at Crumbling Castle gives us a look into the mind of a young but already skilled author. A true delight for all Pratchett fans, and a must-have for fans of his work.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss

slowregr

This book focuses on Auri, one of the most relatable characters in The Kingkiller Chronicles, and takes us through a typical week of hers. Rothfuss’ writing makes her odd logic and justifications seem perfectly normal, making this book a delightful read for any fan of the books.

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Audio Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Early in November, at the World Fantasy Convention, I interviewed a few authors. Below is my interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, my final one from that weekend. Mary spoke of everything from modeling naked, to impersonating Patrick Rothfuss, to zombie-Napoleon on a steam-powered wheelchair. With cannons. She also spoke of her writing, and her upcoming novel.

Take a listen, and I hope you enjoy!


Interview with Kenny Soward

Back at World Fantasy in November, I sat down with Kenny (Kennah) Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. We spoke of his upcoming projects, self-publishing, horse-sized ducks, zombies, and social media.

I highly encourage you to listen to the audio — lots of silliness and random discussions took place, but didn’t make it to the transcript below… and do ignore the fact that my voice completely changes near the very end of the audio.

Enjoy!

 

[K = Kenny, and R = Rebecca (me)]

R: Alright, so, I am here with Kenny Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. Can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

K: Yeah, I work in IT. That’s something a lot of people don’t know. I work with Linux OS support, so I’m familiar with mechanics and different things that enabled me to write those steampunky, (or “gnomepunky” as Joe likes to call them), items in Rough Magick/the GnomeSaga series.

R: Very cool.

For the readers unfamiliar with your novels, the Gnomesaga, could you tell us a tiny bit about them?

K: What I tell people that come up to me in bars is that it’s like Harry Potter on crack. It’s magic – your typical magic and epic fantasy, drawn from the eastern-European, you know the GRRM, Lord of the Rings, type stuff. But, with the gnomes as a character that’s never been covered by anybody, I don’t think. I’ve never seen any gnome books.

R: And is that why you chose gnomes?

K: Well, I started playing gnomes in D&D. Gnomes, and dwarves, and hobbits, because I felt sorry for them. No body else would play them, and I thought my personality was always very like… rock, solid. I was always a hard worker in school. I was never flashy, so I never wanted to play the big strong ogres. I was like: I want to play the dwarves. Those guys are solid, man, they’ve got their axes, and armour and stuff. And then I sort of evolved to EverQuest. I was fairly addicted to EverQuest for a while. I lost like 10 years of my life to that game.

One day, I got tired of my dwarf that I had. I was just tired of tanking constantly. So, I started this little gnome called Nikselpik. The smart-ass in me came out, and every time I ran into a zone, I would just shout crap to my guild members and I would get everybody laughing. They knew I wrote stories, so they said, “When are we going to read some Nikselpik stories?”, which made me think “Hm.. That might be interesting.”

R: So, I guess that’s the origin story of the GnomeSaga.

K: Yeah, kind of. I actually wrote the first draft of that in 2001 or 2002. It was a completely different book. So yeah, definitely origins.

R: And it’s being rereleased by Rangarok?

K: Yes, I recently selfpublished it in 2013; Ragnarok wasn’t around at the time. It was just Joe Martin helping me edit the book. We were just doing it for fun and to see what we could do. We were encouraged by David Dalglish, who’d put out numerous titles, and then get signed with Orbit.

So yeah, that’s sort of how it started, and as Ragnarok developed, we just sort of said: “You need titles, and I need a publisher, so let’s just see how it goes.” So we put it together for that.

R: And the last book in that is actually coming out soon, Cogweaver. Do you have any plans after that? [It’s actually Tinkermage that’s coming out soon (i.e. today). Cogweaver will be out February 2015.]

K: Actually, it was an interesting conversation. I had wanted to get into some other things, some China Meiville type stuff, some sort of weird fantasy. I love China Meiville’s stuff. Another favourite of mine is Caitlín Kiernan. I love going down that weird fantasy route. I had a talk with Joe, and he said: “Why do you need to do anything different? You can fit in a lot of idea with GnomeSaga, or with your world of Sullenor. So why don’t you just be the gnome guy? Run with that.” I thought about it, and there are so many stories I want to write… and yeah, I’m going to do that.

The next series is going to be called The Order of Scorpion, and it’s going to be a GnomeSaga three-book series. I’m going to start working on that in January.

R: Cool! Will Nikselpik and Nikselbella be making appearances in that?

K: Definitely Nikselpik, but I can’t really talking about Nikselbella, because that would be giving spoilers as to what happens to her. It’s definitely more the adventures of Nikselpik and his band of wizards and odds-and-ends.

R: Fun. Also, you worked on the Dead West series with Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin.

K: Yes.

R: Which would be a better introduction to your writing? You know, if gnomes seem a bit far-out to some people, would that be a good leeway into your writing at all?

K: If you like violence, yes. They’re extremely violent. There’s not a lot of the taboo subjects like.. The women characters are strong characters, in fact, half of the people who read my books are females. Even the Dead West series. Specifically because of Nina and the other female characters.

Nina can shoot a colt navy quite well.

R: Nothing wrong with a badass female character who can shoot.

K: Absolutely. So, an introduction? Maybe, if you can handle violence.

R: Alright, and if they can handle violence, I think they might be able to handle gnomes.

K: It’s hard to tell. I’m feeling out the horror/fantasy fans to see what they like. You really get surprised sometimes. You think people will like something, then you start hearing: “Yeah… I don’t like that in my books.” You know, certain levels of sex or romance.

R: Yeah, I was at a panel last night on “How graphic is your novel?” Some people want the gore, other people they don’t want it, but they like some horror.

K: I think mixing them is what gets you into a little bit of trouble. I think if people know the book they’re getting into is a gorey book, they’re excited about it, because it’s what they want at the time. But in your epic fantasy, people don’t always want very hardcore sex scenes, or necessarily different types of violence, and certainly not a misogynist feel to the book. You have to be careful.

For my books, I just love the straight-up epic fantasy. There’s some romance, but I don’t have a lot of sex scenes or anything like that. I don’t think people want that. I think they just want to read a nice, cool adventure, with some cool battles, and some cool magic, and cool characters.

R: Yep, epic battles, epic worlds and that kind of thing.

K: Yeah, absolutely.

R: What’s your writing process like? Are you more of a discovery writing, an outliner, or..?

K: I used to be a discovery writer until I overwrote Tinkermage by 30k words. I rewrote it, and I rewrote sections of it, and I just thought “I can’t do this again. This is crazy.” So, since the summer, I started to outline and I looked around at the way people do their outlines. Just a basic three-act outline with three blocks per act. I’ve been doing that, and I actually like it a lot.

People think it holds you back from the creativity, but I don’t think so. It’s like a metronome. It keeps you on pace, but you can always play around with the time-signature, so to speak. The middle of my last book that I did for Cogweaver, the middle was only supposed to be three chapters according to my outline, but it ended up being six chapters. I stuck to the idea that it should be a build-up though.

You don’t have to follow it all the way, but definitely I’m outlining for now. I might come back in a year and tell you that I’m full of crap.

R: Yeah, “Screw outlining!” I’ve recently started outlining as well, and I’m doing a 5-act structure type thing. I’ve totally veered way off track with that.

K: Well, at least you tried. Maybe somehow you can bring it back and land on your feet, so to speak.

R: That’s the plan, assuming I finish it.

So, you mentioned that you’re a huge fan of China Meiville, but do you have any other favourite authors?

K: There are so many authors to choose from. For example, right now I’m re-reading Swan Song by Robert McCammon, The book is from the 80’s, I think, or 90’s even. His stuff is amazing. Sometimes if I’m interested, I’ll look into a Stephen King book, if it looks good. He has his fingers on the pulse of America, he gets those characters distinctions so well. I love reading his stuff, and it’s fun.

Caitlín Kiernan is probably my favourite contemporary author, and China Mieville, of course. Neil Gaiman, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in one sitting. I just blew through it. So, of course Neil. And Neil and Caitlin are close. I know Neil supports Caitlín a lot, so I’m kind of into all the weird fantasy stuff. I like the idea of not necessarily having roles placed on you, and on the world, like Rail Sea by China Mieville. It blows my mind.

A lot of my peers – Jeff Salyards is really good, Teresa Frohock is awesome, I kind of put Teresa and Jeff into the same level. They’re both highly skilled and imaginative. Just really solid fantasy. I can’t wait to read Moses Siregard’s next book… If he ever finishes it. Moses.

R: Yes. Finish that.

K: So, I guess, being a writer now, I do tend to read more of my peers’ stuff, so that’s kind of a thing.

R: And do you have any advice for anybody who’s looking to go into self-publishing?

K: That’s a really good question. I still want to self-publish. Even though we put the GnomeSaga series through Ragnarok, I thought that the next thing I did would be self-published… But then I saw the print edition of Rough Magick, and I don’t think I could ever have done that. I couldn’t have pulled together the resources. I couldn’t have gotten Arman Akopian to do the cover. Joe pulled that together for me.

If you find a good publisher, and they know how to get the artist, the resources to do it right… It’s hard to deny going through a publisher. What I think I’m going to do, is that I’m going to take everything I learn off of these guys and gals, and maybe self-publish stand-alone works occasionally. I was actually talking to Kirk Dougal about this last night – just do the series through the publisher, the stuff that’s going to take a lot of work and promotion… but if you want to do something weird that no one is going to want, or if you’re not sure there’s a market for it… Go ahead and get your artist, and your editor, and put it out yourself. Plus, you’re getting direct sales, which is pretty cool.

R: Definitely, and a lot of publishers now seem to be going through the self-published content on Amazon… Authors such as Anthony Ryan, Michael J. Sullivan, and Hugh Howey have all been picked up by a traditional publisher at some point in time because of their self-published work.

K: Absolutely. It gives you a chance to be a professional. Before, you didn’t even have that opportunity because you were automatically told: “You can’t join our club.” But now you can force your way in by just being good, and professional, and consistent. I think publishers are smart to do that, to look at these folks who are doing this, and picking them up.

R: Zombie apocalypse survival plan.

K: Well, probably perish quickly, is going to be mine.

We would probably do okay, I think. I kind of laugh with my girlfriend about it, because we do own guns, and we shoot occasionally. So, as far as guns and stuff, we would be okay. As far as the important stuff, like food… We would be pretty bad off. We would have to go around and offer our services of protection in exchange for beans and such.

I think that’s probably our plan, because we’re horrible preppers. We have no stocks or anything. We would probably starve in like two days.

R: Just stock up on Twinkies!

K: They last forever. And I’ll eat anything… So if it’s old or whatever, I’ll still eat it.

R: Yes.. Penicillin! That grows on moldy bread.

K: There we go! I’ll be healthy.

R: I have a really weird question. I asked it to Mark Lawrence and his answer was boring.

K: Okay, well shoot.

R: If you were a talking box of cereal, and a horse-sized duck wanted to eat you… How would you convince it not to?

K: Holy shit. Actually, it’s kind of a mathematical question in a way. I would plead merciless. I would just plead for my life. I’d be just like “Look, I have no arms or legs. I can’t defend myself. So, I’m just going to plead to your conscience and hope you allow me to live.” Then I would try to convince them that the cereal over there was much tastier. And that’s how I would do it.

R: When I originally asked this to Mark, I had it as “a horse-sized mercenary duck”. His response was along the lines of: “Well, I’m a talking box of cereal. I’m paying that thing to not eat me.”

K: Well, if he’s a good cereal I mean… It’s like publishing, you never know who’s going to like you.

R: A talking box of cereal though.

K: Yeah, you would have endorsement deals. You know, Mark is always straight to the point. He’s very quotable. I always look at his stuff, and there’s like a quote every page, and every paragraph… and my stuff is not quotable really.

R: You just need to wait until people start getting Gnome Saga tattoos!

K: I am making little promotional coins and stuff. It’s important to promote yourself… I don’t rely on publicists, they’re great and stuff, but I’m not the kind of guy that’s just going to sit and go: “Promote me! Why don’t I have 10,000 sales yet?” I like getting involved. I’m going to start doing giveaways for collectors’ sets, like the Gnome Saga collectors’ set will have a coin, which you can make into a necklace, or you can put a chain through the loop… You can also use it as an iPad charm. Mugs… Just little things. Bookmarks.

I like fridge calendars too, and magnets too. I like magnets. My favourite is kind of like JAWS but it’s a little kitten, and it’s swimming to the surface and it saws PAWS.

[We continued talking about magnets for a while. If you’re really intrigued, it’s around the 18-19 minute mark. Otherwise, I’m not including it here. We also discussed the fact that I’m secretly famous. I had a paper nameplate from a mass-signing the night before.]

K: This whole weekend has been interesting, because even sitting at the signing table yesterday – and I’ve noticed that we haven’t gotten a lot of traffic. They’ve sold some stuff, but I haven’t personally sold a lot. You get a lot of interest though, and people have come by, and they’ve taken pictures of the book. Last night, there was a lot of that. It’s interesting, and I realize that there’s a lot of competition.

It makes you humble, and it makes you understand that it’s very competitive… You just have to be as nice as you can.

R: Big thing I think here, and at other conventions, is for new authors to make the connections, go to conventions and conferences in your area. Just meet people.

K: I’m a little older now, where maybe I was more ambitious before… I’m still ambitious, but, I really do want to know what people are up to. I’ll go through Facebook if I have 15 or 20 minutes, I kind of want to know what everybody is up to, so I will go, and I’ll ‘like’ something, or comment on it. Social media is such an interesting thing, because a lot of people look at it as “It’s just me, throwing my crap out there”, but really it’s supposed to be interactive. I always reply to people who comment and post on mine. It’s more fun that way, and I think it’s great.

I would never have known half the people, or half the things going on, if I hadn’t just involved myself. So, it’s an eye-opener for sure. I’m definitely a Facebook, Google+ person. I haven’t tried Ello yet.

R: Alright. And do you have any other comments to add to your readers? Beginning writers? Horse-sized mercenary ducks? Zombies?

K: It’s a horse-sized duck, right?

R: Yeah.

K: Saddle that thing up, and ride it man. If it can fly…

R: Don’t even ask where that came from.

K: That would be my advice to writers, saddle that horse-sized duck, and ride it. Ride it as far as you can take, until you just get too old to type.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed our wacky, and hopefully interesting interview.

Tinkermage (Book 2 of GnomeSaga) was released TODAY. Go check it out!

tinker

Rough Magick on Amazon
Tinkermage on Amazon

If you’re not too sure about all this gnomish business, check out an excerpt from Rogue Magick here.


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