Statement on suspending The Exploding Spaceship column

It has come to my attention that Angela and Gerald, the authors of the Bull Spec column “The Exploding Spaceship”, violated the anti-harassment policy at MidAmericon II, the 74th WorldCon, as well as a specific “do not contact” request by one of the attendees, in effect since the previous WisCon, by repeatedly approaching an attendee who had asked to be left alone, and attempting to grab the badge of someone who placed themselves between that attendee and Angela and Gerald. In the semi-public discussion in the aftermath of these events, it came to light that this behavior was not an isolated event, and that similar reports have been made about Angela and Gerald at ConCarolinas.

Having no reason to doubt the veracity of these reports, I have accordingly suspended “The Exploding Spaceship” column, and ask convention and other event organizers to no longer honor their Bull Spec press credentials, until further notice.

Angela and Gerald were attending the convention both as fans, which they are, and specifically as representatives of Bull Spec, to take photographs and conduct brief interviews as part of an upcoming installment of their column. I apologize to those attendees who were made to feel uncomfortable or threatened by their unwanted approaches.

This is not an easy thing to do. I have known Angela and Gerald in fandom for nearly seven years, and they have been both financial supporters of and material contributors to the magazine for most of that time. We have had dinners together, gone to panels together, and I consider them my friends. I honestly believe they mean no one any harm, and that these incidents of harassment are in their point of view an expression of their enthusiasm as fans, of their earnest desire to be and feel included as a part of fandom. However, good intentions are not enough, they are never enough, when it comes to respecting the wishes of people who express the desire to be left alone, to respecting personal physical boundaries without permission, with or without a harassment policy. (For example, Bull Spec has no explicit policy for columnist behavior, a lack which will be remedied as soon as is practically possible.)

I am sure that Angela and Gerald feel confused, bewildered, and saddened by this development, and that saddens me greatly as well, though not, of course, as much as the results of their actions themselves. My hope is that in time they can come to understand where they made mistakes and learn to respect personal boundaries and requests for no contact. Until that time, I cannot in good conscience continue to publish their column. In the meantime, my phone is on and my door is always open.

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Friday Quick Updates: Edmund R. Schubert’s This Giant Leap, new-new and updated events, award news, and more

Friday, August 12, 2016: As promised there isn’t a newsletter coming this month, but that certainly isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of news to pass along. So! Here we go, starting with a “new-new” event tonight in Greensboro that a lot of Triangle (and beyond) folks are excited about:

At 7 pm, Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books (304 S Elm St) hosts Edmund R. Schubert for a reading and signing of his new science fiction collection This Giant Leap. Published earlier this year by Charlotte’s Falstaff Books (John G. Hartness, publisher) it’s got a beautiful print edition to go along with digital formats. Long-time editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Schubert has been an essential editor and mentor to writers from North Carolina and beyond, and this collection is a fantastic demonstration of his skill as a writer as well. It’s his first new book in quite a while, and as Ed was traveling overseas during ConGregate, it’s also a chance to people to get their books signed if you picked them up from Falstaff’s table.

There’s another pair of “new-new” events I’ve inserted into the July newsletter, both from a College of Charleston historian whose new book on Lovecraft has been picking up some fantastic reviews and blurbs:

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Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, July 2016: NewCon Press turns 10, collections from Alastair Reynolds and M. John Harrison, sf/f and “mainstream” novels, and the strains of the fantastic in this year’s Booker Prize

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

From the Other Side, July 2016
By Paul Kincaid

Ian Whates’s NewCon Press celebrated its 10th birthday with a party in London at the beginning of the month. Those who attended, including a goodly number of NewCon’s authors and others including Anne Charnock, Kim Lakin-Smith, Nick Wood, Edward Cox, Keith Brooke and David Langford, all received a free copy of X Marks the Spot a celebration of the past ten years including contributions by Adam Roberts, Ian Watson, Hal Duncan, Chaz Brenchley and others. The party also saw the launch of no less than four new books. There are two anthologies, both edited by Whates: Now We Are Ten contains 16 new stories on the theme of ten by writers including Ian McDonald, Nancy Kress, Tricia Sullivan, Peter F. Hamilton and Nina Allan; while Crises and Conflicts contains 15 military sf stories by Adam Roberts, Tade Thompson, Mercurio D. Rivera and Gavin Smith among others. And there are two collections: The Spoils of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky brings together new and old tales related to his long-running Shadows of the Apt sequence; while Secret Language is the first new collection in ten years by Neil Williamson, including four new stories written specially for this collection. The party also saw the appearance, one week early, of Ian Whates’s own collection of stories, Dark Travellings (Fox Spirit), thirteen stories ranging from post-apocalyptic science fiction to vampire horror.

Crises and Conflicts: Celebrating the First 10 Years of NewCon Press The Race Cover

Thinking of NewCon Press, one of the highlights of 2014 was their publication of Nina Allan’s first novel, The Race; now it has been republished by Titan with an extra novella-length chapter that gives an extra twist to everything that has gone before. Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship reviews An Accident of Stars, Blood of the Earth, and Spiderlight

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Review of An Accident of Stars: Book 1 of the Manifold Worlds by Foz Meadows (Angry Robot, August 2, 2016)

So an Australian teenage girl who feels like no adults care about her problems gets anti-bullying advice from a woman she doesn’t know outside her high school. Saffron feels a connection with the woman to the extent that she follows her, and when a portal to another world opens and the woman goes through it, Saffron steps through after her. Gwen is extremely surprised and annoyed to discover she was followed because she has no way to re-open the portal and send Saffron home.

Gwen is black and Saffron is white, although this difference seems to mean little to Saffron. It was more important to her that Gwen gave her advice that neither her parents nor any other white adult had given her. In Kena the races have vastly different cultures based on religion and geography. Luckily Gwen lives in an area with a mixed population but the differences do cause confusion to Saffron when she is trying to sort out the cultural nuances of Kena.

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Going through the portal leads to a brief travelogue through Kena, an alternate world with more primitive technology than our world. Saffron gets separated from Gwen and this has great consequences for Saffron and the entire world. The world is matriarchal and the bisexuality that made Saffron feel so weird at home is more of an accepted norm there, so although things are strange, Gwen admits that she likes it better than home. Continue reading

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July/August Newsletter: Events with Tony Daniel, Gwenda Bond, Christos Gage, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and Drew Magary, and the 2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award goes to…

Vol 6 No 7. Thursday, July 28, 2016: Oh, what’s another newsletter coming out near the tail end of the month? At least this time I’m going to go ahead and call it now: there won’t be another newsletter going out until September.

First, though, while there are events tonight and tomorrow and this weekend that deserve your attention, it’s only once a year that I get to pass along North Carolina science fiction and fantasy news at this level: The 2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award goes to…

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Charlotte author John G. Hartness for his novella Raising Hell. Presented at ConGregate during an awards ceremony on Saturday, July 16, this is the third annual award, voted on by the combined membership of North Carolina science fiction and fantasy conventions (illogiConConCarolinasConTemporal, and ConGregate), covering works published in 2015 written by North Carolina authors. In his acceptance speech, Hartness expressed his honor at being included among his fellow nominees this year: Darin Kennedy (for The Mussorgsky Riddle), Ursula Vernon (for Castle Hangnail), and Gail Z. Martin (Vendetta and War of Shadows) and Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin (for Iron and Blood). 115 titles were eligible, from 65 different authors. It was an incredible year of new science fiction and fantasy from the authors of our state! The news has already been picked up by both regional places like the Charlotte Observer and the NC Writers’ Network as well as by Locus Magazine and File 770, among others.

All right. Now on to those imminently forthcoming events:

    Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews City of Wolves by Willow Palecek and Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold

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Review of City of Wolves by Willow Palecek (Tor.com, July 26, 2016)

Alexander Drake is an investigator for hire in a dark city called Lupenwald, which has a Victorian technology level and resembles England in some ways. It has commoners and nobility, a strong pub culture, and different factions fight over who is the rightful king. Most of the adult men at the time of the story have served a few years before in the army of one side of the other in the most recent battle over the throne.

Drake is a commoner and does not work for nobility unless the money is very, very good. He takes this particular case because he gets nabbed off the street by some thugs who bring him to someone who is working for a nobleman. The job offer comes with a big pile of gold so he isn’t too resistant to investigating the death of the man’s father. The man’s death is much more complicated than it seems at first. Every piece of evidence Drake turns up seems to lead irrevocably on toward a solution which makes no sense.

Drake ends up making some discoveries about his client, the client’s family, and eventually about all nobility, which changes his entire world view. This knowledge could pose a danger for him so it will be interesting to see how many nobles try to kill him in later adventures!

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Drake is a rather disreputable bloke, and so a grey character. He has honor of a sort but isn’t above some sneaking about and under-the-table money-changing. He does pay his debts though, and deals fairly with his clients.

The setting is dark and somewhat creepy, with many dogs and wolves present. Magic is shown to be available for hire (by the rich, at least), but no magicians are present in the story. There are reasons for the canine influence which are unknown to the reader or to Drake until the end of the tale. The city feels alive and lived in by too many people: dirty, smelly, and grimy. The pub Drake goes into on the first page, the Stool and Rooster, feels like a nasty dive in the worst part of town. But since he is almost broke, it is a cheap place to get a drink.

It was an easy read which was done in one sitting and was just the right length to give a break from the day job; it would be the perfect length for a commute by train or bus. There are not really any female characters of any importance and so it’s difficult to tell about the treatment of females by the society. Drake seems to respect them, but you don’t really see other characters interacting with females much. Perhaps this will be explored in future cases.

Overall this is an enjoyable Victorian urban fantasy within a world which has obviously not been explored completely in this short tale, so Your Humble Reviewers look forward to future cases featuring Drake and some new clients.

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Review of Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold (Solaris, July 26, 2016)

Eveline Sparrow is a school teacher now, which is quite a change from her former days as a thief and scoundrel in Shanghai. She has relocated to England and founded a school for girls like her younger self. Both her foster mother and her biological mother live there, too, and the two of them can never agree on anything. She has to constantly remind them that the pupils will not respect her if they hear one of the older ladies dressing her down. This makes for a rather stressful life for Evvie, and the bill collectors arriving about the butcher and grocery bill don’t help her stress level.

Evvie realizes she must do something to bring in some money. She decides the best thing is to offer security services to rich people whom she knows are a bit shady. Her first mark turns out to be a bit shadier than she expected and he employs someone who knew Evvie before she become a school owner. Both of these facts lead to a much more complicated situation than Evvie had envisioned.

Her best friend Liu, who is half fox god, gets involved and this leads to the other Folk being involved too. They end up using a changeling to prevent a kidnapping which would have started a war with Russia. The Folk world and the normal one tend to mirror each other more than the Folk would like to admit, so unwary humans can do the bidding of Folk and cause a disaster in their own world.

The houses and buildings Evvie visits are detailed and each have a different feel but the city of London as a whole does not really play as a backdrop. The setting is more on a local scale which follows Evvie about, with the journey to new places not being very important. Because Your Humble Reviewers have lived in London, there was no problem following the sections of town being discussed, but for US readers not so familiar with the city, the setting would seem rather vague and jumpy. More detail of the city as a whole would be helpful in understanding where the school’s location and the location of other buildings fit into things; even just a map would be very helpful. The characters at one point require a vehicle to reach their destination, which could be rather puzzling to Americans who don’t get the scale of everything, nor the idea of constantly clogged streets even though there are no automobiles yet.

The various students, Evvie, and both of her moms all living at the school made for a lively home situation, and everyone playing off each other gave details about each character. Evvie gives the reader some information via her thoughts and fears, but conversations and loud complaining by one of the moms gave much more insight into the situation.

Not having read the first Evvie book turned out to not be much of a problem as this volume is a much different type of story, apparently. She is an interesting character but seems a bit stunted romantically. It is unclear if she is supposed be that way or the author just didn’t want to deal with it in this volume. Most ordinary needs like food and drink, clothing, and housing are discussed, but the lack of romantic partners was odd. Perhaps future volumes will address it.

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

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Review of Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson (Tor.com, July 19, 2016)

So … what if humans were sharing the planet with vampires and those creatures kept their presence a secret until now? How would the FBI deal with the situation if some of those newly-discovered vampires were kidnapping and killing teenagers outside of Chicago?

These are the questions that Olson’s novella answers, and it answers them in a very engaging and entertaining manner. Young Alex McKenna is the lead character. He has an interesting family history with the FBI, and his best friend for many years always acts as his second in command. Both of them are very young to be in charge of a unit, much less an entire city’s agents. The division dealing with vampires has lost many agents, so McKenna must select more people for his team. The process of selection gives insight into Alex and his second, Chase, as well as the people being selected.

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Alex uses some unusual tactics to get the information he needs to make his team complete and get the necessary intel to find the vampires. How they solve the crime and the details of the final confrontation are things that Your Humble Reviewers do not want to give away, but we will say that the plot was not a straightforward one easily guessed and there were several surprises stemming from the characters’ actions.

It’s a police procedural urban fantasy set in the modern day, so procedures, weapons, buildings, and most details of the setting are realistic, but as vampires are present, it must be an alternate world. Since Your Humble Reviewers also write police procedurals (although set in the future), we were quite pleased to find one in our Tor.com reading material. We don’t think we would like to live in a world with vampires running wild, but it is an excellent contemporary place to visit!

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Friday Quick Updates: Serafina and Millarworld in the Triangle, a big ConGregate preview, and more!

Friday, July 15, 2016: It’s going to be a fantastic weekend in High Point, so whether you’re driving or taking the train (it’s less than a block walk from the station to the hotel!), travel safe on your way to ConGregate! But before I go on (at length!) about ConGregate, there are also a few things happening in and around the Triangle this weekend, so I’ll get started with those:

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (a Serafina Novel) Cover Millarworld Annual 2016

  • July 15 (Friday) 6 pm — The Streets at Southpoint Barnes & Noble in Durham hosts Asheville author Robert Beatty for Serafina and the Twisted Staff, book two in his 1890s Biltmore-set series for young readers after Serafine and the Black Cloak, out from Disney-Hyperion.
  • July 16 (Saturday) 11 am to 1 pm — Ultimate Comics Raleigh hosts a MILLAR WORLD ANNUAL #1 signing: “Join writer and artist of the American Jesus story in the new Millarworld annual this Saturday the 16th at Ultimate Comics Raleigh from 11am-1pm! Steve Beach and friend-of-the-store writer Cliff Bumgarner join us for the signing of the brand spankin’ new MILLARWORLD ANNUAL!”

OK, now! Let’s talk about ConGregate!

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Time Siege by Wesley Chu and The Ghoul King by Guy Haley

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Review of Time Siege by Wesley Chu (Angry Robot, July 12, 2016)

When we last left James Griffin-Mars, he had rescued his sister Sasha and made it back to the Elfreth and his friend Elise. Now he has to find someone who can treat Sasha’s illness and convince them to come back to Earth with him. All his time-jumps without the medicine provided by ChronoCom have left him feeling very ill and cranky, so in order to deal with his life he self-medicates with alcohol.

This volume explores James’ fall into alcoholism, the repercussions this has on Sasha and Elise, the fighters who depend on him, and how he and all of his friends deal with his drying out. Of course the fight against Co-op is going on while he is dealing with his personal issues. He and Grace had been able to find someone to conduct time salvages for the Elfreth but these don’t always go as planned.

Elise ends up allying with several other tribes and eventually with most of the tribes in Manhattan in order to co-ordinate defense, farming, and treatment of the injured. The coalition ends up with some unexpected allies in the final battle against Valta which will have far reaching implications for Earth and ChronoCom in the future.

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This volume has many great battle scenes and some great individual fights with both James and Elise (she has a robot that she rides in to fight). The supporting characters really shine with realistic portrayals of friends, squad mates, martial arts training mates, and families who come from many different tribes. James and Elise both make some surprising discoveries about themselves and each other during the course of the story. James and Elise are not young adults which Your Humble Reviewers (who are middle aged people) thought was great. Adventures are not the sole property of the under-thirty crowd! Continue reading

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Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, June 2016: Brexit, Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett, Charles Stross, Simon R. Green, Peter Newman, Mark Lawrence, Jenny T. Colgan, and more

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

From the Other Side, June 2016
By Paul Kincaid

So, in an inexplicable fit of self-destructive folly, the UK has voted to leave the EU. It’ll be a while yet before all the fall-out becomes clear, but we’ve already seen massive economic problems, Scotland talking once more of independence, and the two major political parties tearing themselves apart. Somehow, I’m not going to be overly surprised if we see a revival of the traditional British catastrophe novel sometime in the next year or so.

For now, however, it’s been something of a quiet month in publishing terms, at least compared to all the big names with books out last month. But we’ve still got Stephen Baxter; after his collaboration with Alastair Reynolds last month, he follows up with a collaboration with Terry Pratchett this month. The Long Cosmos (Doubleday) is the fifth and last volume in their Long Earth series, and presumably the very last book from Sir Terry. In this episode, the Long Earth receives a message from the stars, a message that leads to the construction of a computer the size of a continent, a computer that heralds the next stage in the evolution of post-human society.

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Another ongoing series continues this month with The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross (Orbit), the latest in his Laundry Files sequence. In this instance, an unfortunate bout of vampirism ends with Alex Schwartz being forced to join the Laundry, and his first mission takes him back to his home town of Leeds, where he has to confront both his parents and a Goth girlfriend. On a slightly different tack, there’s Dr D.O.A. by Simon R. Green (Roc). Green seems to have spent a fair bit of his career producing work with echoes of others, and this is no exception, as you can tell when you discover that the hero of this new Secret Histories novel is Eddie Drood, also known as Shamen Bond (there can’t be many writers who would mix Charles Dickens and Ian Fleming so cavalierly) who in this novel has been fed a poison that’s impervious to magic cures and treatments.

Dr. DOA Cover The Malice Cover Continue reading

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