The Exploding Spaceship Eugie Foster Memorial Review of Returning My Sister’s Face

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In Memoriam: a Review of Returning My Sister’s Face, a collection of Far Eastern tales by Eugie Foster

For those who haven’t heard yet, Eugie Foster lost her battle with cancer and its complications today. Instead of flowers, her husband Matthew wants everyone to buy and read her books and tell everyone else how wonderful her fiction was. So to encourage our readers to do that, we review her wonderful anthology of Far Eastern tales published in 2009 by Norilana Books.

The “Kitsune” cover art by Ahyicodae is beautiful enough to draw buyers without even looking at the stories inside. However, Your Humble Reviewers are extremely interested in Asian culture and art (we are martial artists who like Asian art galleries) so the Far Eastern tales would have drawn our attention even if we didn’t know Eugie. We offer info on all the tales in this collection to encourage our readers to go looking for her work. Please retweet, re-post, and link to this column so the wonderful work of Eugie Foster can be discovered by others.

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The first tale in this volume caused a personal discussion with Eugie at a convention and us showing off our phone photos, because she had no idea we were bunny people. We loved her take on the three rabbits chasing motif, “Daughter of Bótù” and we quite agree that people underestimate rabbits. We have been owned by house rabbits since 1994 and think a rabbit warren should be the setting for more fantastical stories. This story is an Asian fairy tale of animal shape changers, humans, and love. It has quite a traditional Chinese feel to it, which is uniquely Eugie, as most other fiction with this feel has been translated, not written in English. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Science Fiction Good Reads: Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior.

Review of Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon (July 27, 2014, Baen)

Your Humble Reviewers found this volume to be much more accessible than the previous one, Fire with Fire, with a tighter plot and without such a jarring plot twist. In this book the fledgling Terran Republic is faced with an alien invasion, and that serves to bring the series into much greater focus.

Many of the mysteries left hanging in the first volume are explained in this one, but most were not surprises. The battles are well described with most everything being from an individual’s point of view, with a few larger views thrown in.  The smaller attacks on Caine Riordan as an individual are well written with enough fear and confusion as well as fighting to make them realistic and believable.

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Usually the viewpoint is of one person and this is done well without information creeping into the scenes which the viewpoint person should not really know. Caine’s love life continues to be a driving factor so interpersonal relationships are as believable and just as confused as those of real people. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Jenna Black on The Gifted Dead

When I asked author Jenna Black, whose Nikki Glass books have been published by Pocket Books, Faeriewalker series by St. Martin’s Griffin, Guardians of the Night series and Replica by Tor, and Morgan Kingsley series by Dell, what the hardest part of her latest novel had been, I thought I knew what I was going to get. Black had elected to self-publish the first book of a new contemporary fantasy series, The Gifted Dead, and I’d assumed that making that decision had weighed quite heavily on her. Not so, I found out.

“Deciding to self-publish wasn’t hard at all,” Black wrote me in answer to my question on the subject. “I’d already written the book, and though numerous New York editors went to bat for me, none of their marketing departments was willing to take the risk with a book that is this particular breed of genre-bender. (More editors wanted to buy this book than any of the ones I’ve actually sold!) So, I had plenty of evidence that it was worth publishing, but no NY publisher to put it out. Doing it myself ended up being a no-brainer.”

It is certainly a genre-bender. But the fun in explaining exactly which genres and how lies at the heart of Black’s essay below, though what’s too fun not to share is this teaser, courtesy NY Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow: “Game of Thrones meets House of Cards, a terrific read!” (Also, it’s great to be able to share with people that a hundred+ words can be the hardest part of a 100K+ word novel.)

By Jenna Black:

In many ways, The Gifted Dead is the most challenging book I’ve ever written. The scope is broader than any of my other books, with multiple intertwining plot lines, and I had seven point-of-view characters to juggle. But if I’m being perfectly honest, writing the book itself was far from the hardest part. No, that honor falls to writing the back cover blurb.

How can an 130-word blurb be harder than a 130,000-word novel? And yet it was. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Scott Westerfeld for Afterworlds at Quail Ridge Books, interviewed by Mur Lafferty

Scott Westerfeld came to prominence a decade ago with his award-winning and best-selling dystopian young adult series “Uglies”, then set his sights on a middle grade alternate history of Steampunk “Clankers” and gene-splicing “Darwinists” for his “Leviathan” series, a fantastically-illustrated (and narrated, by Alan Cumming) adventure-romp through WW1-era Europe by diesel-powered mech walkers, modified whale airships, and (perhaps) even stranger methods. It’s been 3 years since Goliath concluded that series, and today Westerfeld’s new young adult/new adult novel Afterworlds launches from Simon Pulse. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, September 24) he’ll be in Raleigh for a reading at Quail Ridge Books.

Afterworlds is about “Darcy Patel, a young writer who bangs out a novel in her senior year of high school, has it published for a ton of money, and moves to New York City to revise it, write a sequel, and hang out with the NYC YA crowd.” And! “Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the entirety of her novel, also called Afterworlds, about Lizzie Scofield, a young girl who escapes a terrorist attack by playing dead, but then discovers that she has played too well . . .” You can get a feel of what’s going on here via the book trailer, or dig into some excerpts (PulseIt, B&N, and the longest at Overdrive).

Here, Westerfeld takes the time via email for an interview from Durham author Mur Lafferty. Westerfeld’s tour kicks off in New York City tonight, and Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books is stop #2 tomorrow, ahead of stops in Pennsylvania, DC, St. Louis, Milwaukee, London, and beyond.

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Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)

Interview by Mur Lafferty

Q: Most authors find it difficult to write one story, and you’ve had to weave two together nearly effortlessly. Was that more difficult than crafting your other books?

Writing two interwoven stories was complicated, certainly, but it’s also very compelling to write two stories that interact with and support each other. Like any novelist, Darcy’s real life influences the book she’s writing. When she learns something about the world, whether it’s a big truth about true love or something as simple as a cool new word, it’s reflected in the pages of her novel. So whenever I got stuck on Lizzie’s story (the novel-within-the-novel) I only had to look at what was going on in Darcy’s life for inspiration.

Q: NaNoWriMo tends to polarize authors (and other publishing pros). Many pros think it’s a waste of time or it invites drek to hit agents’ desks in December or tells people it’s OK to write only once a year instead of make a habit. And then there’s you and a handful of others who see it as a positive. What made you want to not only feature a NaNoWriMo writer in your book, but dedicate the book to WriMos?  Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Good Young Adult Appropriate Fantasy Reads

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These volumes are young adult or young adult friendly volumes of fantasy we have read in the last few months. Some are from smaller publishers so we thought many of our readers might have missed them. Only the first volume is marketed as a young adult novel, the others are fantasy with appropriate content for most young adults.

Review of War of the Seasons, Book 3: The Hunter by Janine K. Spendlove (Silence in the Library, Dec 2013)

This is the third volume about Story and her adventures in Ailionora, the land of her mother. Elves and dwarves are real, but fairies aren’t what you would expect. Steel harms the beings there, so Story’s knife is a deadly weapon.

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Story is engaged to the hunter Eírnin and in this volume that relationship is tested by the arrival of Story’s best friend Josh at the very end of Book 2. Eírnin thinks it’s a love triangle because he doesn’t realize Josh is like Story’s brother, so she wouldn’t think of him in that way. So while the entire kingdom is planning a war against the Winter King to get Story’s sister back and save the entire multiverse, Eírnin and Story spend a great deal of time talking around the problem and avoiding each other. Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Quick Updates: The Escapism Film Festival this weekend along with plays and musicals and comedy, John and Carole Barrowman announced as NC Comicon headliners, a free writing workshop, and more

Friday, September 19, 2014: Who’s up for a show? You have your pick between film, stage, musical, and comedy performances tonight, with The Escapism Film Festival, Little Green Pig’s HMLT, and North Raleigh Arts’ Xanadu playing through the weekend. Some of the Escapism lineup? Ice PiratesThe Princess BrideMad Max Beyond ThunderdomeThe Neverending StoryThe Last of the Mohicans, and The Last Unicorn. Yup, it’s set to be a fun weekend, though watch out for parking in downtown Durham as it’s also CenterFest, back after a year’s hiatus.

Meanwhile, NC Comicon had some big news, announcing that John Barrowman (Dr. WhoTorchwood) and his sister and frequent co-author Carole will join Fiona Staples (Saga), Nathan Edmonson (The Activity), and many more as guests this November. Additionally, the accompanying ComiQuest Film Festival lineup was announced, including AkiraConan the BarbarianFlash GordonIron GiantHoward the Duck, and more.

NEWS ROUNDUP:

  • Melissa Scott and Jo Graham are in the Cyberpunk StoryBundle
  • John Hartness (And David B. Coe, among others) have mentioned a friend and writer who recently passed away, D.J. Davis, urging people to buy Davis’ debut novella
  • NC writers Nathan Ballingrud and Dale Bailey have a story, “The Crevasse” up on the Drabblecast podcast
  • Speaking of podcasts, the (Parsec Award nominated) Baen Free Radio Hour recently had local author David Drake on to talk about his new collection “Dinosaurs and a Dirigible” — and! today will debut part 1 of the locally-produced radioplay “Islands” which premiered at Raleigh’s Living Arts College on Wednesday

CROWDFUNDING ROUNDUP: For her birthday today, Emmett Davenport invites you to donate to the Kickstarter for a puppet show by Lady Attercop and Emmett Davenport called “Lushington’s Lounge” where we’re invited to “Join dashing steampunk darlings Emmett Davenport and Lady Attercop of The Clockwork Cabaret, or at least their puppet doubles, as they negotiate the thorny, tasty, and just plain bizarre landscape of vintage Victorian cocktails, and their modern counterparts.” And! Eryk Pruitt’s IndieGogo campaign for his new short film “The HooDoo of Sweet Mama Rosa”  successfully reached its $3000 goal, but there’s still time left (through midnight tonight) to be a part of it. Another Kickstarter with North Carolina ties is for a film of Terry Bisson’s fantastic “Bears Discover Fire”, which is currently $5,000 short of its $15,000 goal.

Next-to-Lastly, and a few of you should know that I’m looking right at you as I type this, the deadline to apply to be the Piedmont Laureate for Speculative Fiction is today, September 19. We have an absolutely fantastic collection of authors in the area, and I don’t envy this year’s judges in the slightest.

Lastly, speaking of the Piedmont Laureate program, a free writing workshop is coming later this month: “Join 2014 Piedmont Laureate Carrie Knowles for a free fiction writing workshop at the historic Borden House, site of the administrative offices of the old Methodist Children’s home. We’ll take a short tour and talk about how to use both place and time to anchor a story and create characters. During the workshop you will have a chance to write and get feedback on your work. Borden House in Fred Fletcher Park, Raleigh, Sunday, September 28 from 1:30-4pm. To register, please contact Carrie Knowles.”

-Sam

UPCOMING EVENTS, SEPTEMBER 2014 Read the rest of this entry »


Local author new release: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

John Darnielle’s brilliant lyricism is no secret to Triangle-area fans of his internationally-acclaimed band The Mountain Goats. Fewer have, however, taken the plunge (or perhaps known about) his more lengthily literary side, expressed most publicly (until now) as a novella in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, a 100-page examination of the classic heavy metal album from the perspective of a 15-year-old psychiatric patient. His first full-length novel, Wolf in White Van, was published on Tuesday, and concerns itself with similarly heady (and dark) themes. After launching the book in New York City in an event with John Hodgman, he returns home to Durham tonight for the first of two local readings. Tonight (Thursday, September 18) he’s at Motorco Music Hall, presented by The Regulator Bookshop, and on Monday (September 22) he’s at Quail Ridge Books. Yesterday, the novel was named to the long-list for the National Book Awards for Fiction.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (FSG Originals)

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live. Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.”

In some ways, Wolf in White Van acts a s kind of anti-thesis for Darnielle’s recent work with The Mountain Goats. The band’s 2012 album, Transcendental Youth, has its more somber edges at times but (I would argue) if not a more ecstatic through-line, an encouragement both direct and indirect to get up, go out, and do/be/create, at least some destination of if not acceptance then catharsis. In Wolf in White Van, we encounter mostly aftermaths — of a 17-year-old’s reasonless actions and of a later, different pair of teenager’s foolish decisions — and how these together make anything resembling meaning, or not, where even catharsis is in short supply. Of the dangers of both going out to do, in joy and curiosity, and also of staying in and delving too deeply into your own dark fantasies. In this short, emotionally packed and affecting novel, even the multiple universes which branch out from every decision are weighed against reality as something perhaps to mourn. In this spiraling, reflecting, inverted narrative, the power of Darnielle’s lyricism in prose to affect you is emotionally and even physically staggering. There’s not even much of a fleeting glimpse of the romanticism of melancholy: we get neither “depression” nor “psychosis” just what happened. Read the rest of this entry »


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