February newsletter updated with tons of new events!

Yup, it always happens. I click “send” on the newsletter and shortly thereafter find out about a long list of upcoming events. Here’s a quick roundup:

FEBRUARY 2013

NEW-NEW: 2 (Saturday) 5 to 7 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts Jared Axelrod, author of the Tor graphic novel The Battle of Blood & Ink: A Fable of the Flying City. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/418137048267731/

NEW-NEW: 11 (Monday) 5 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts PETER LERANGIS – Children’s Fantasy With The Colossus Rises.

NEW-NEW: 11 (Monday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Breathless Reads YA Tour: Meet Five Up and Coming Young Adult Authors – Fiona Paul (Venom), Beth Revis (Shades of Earth), Morgan Rhodes (Falling Kingdoms), Elizabeth Richards (Black City), and Jess Spotswood (Born Wicked).

NEW-NEW: 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Peter Lerangis, The Seven Wonders Book One: The Colossus Rises.

NEW-NEW: 16 (Saturday) 9 pm til late — Davenport and Winkleperry hosts The Clockwork Ball: A Steampunk Party. “Attention Pilots of Airships and their Crews, Mad Scientists, Explorers of the Unknown, Admirers of Verbosity, Respecters of the Strange, Those Lost in the Throes of Opium or Absinthe, Teetotalers, Scallywags, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dandies, Fops, and Urchins… Our next event will be on Saturday February 16th, 2013 and… will feature a live performance by the outstanding FABLE CRY.  Hosted by that darling duo, Emmett Davenport & Lady Nikolai Attercop. They will be spinning Jazz, Blues, Swing, Dark Cabaret, Gypsy Punk, & Dance music from times gone by or times that never were. Doors at 8pm; Music begins at 9pm. Admission: 18+, 21+ to Drink; $5. Appropriate Attire is Encouraged, but never required.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/434531459951000/

NEW-NEW: 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Ariel Djanikian reads from her science fiction novel The Office of Mercy. Author Djanikian now calls Chapel Hill home, so let’s get out to welcome this new local author!

MARCH 2013

NEW-NEW: 2 (Saturday) 2 pm — David Drake will be at Circle City Books in Pittsboro — the bookstore was recently written up in the LA Times for its fantastic mural of a bookshelf (which features one of Drake’ss books, “With the Lightnings”: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-now-thats-a-wall-of-books-20130123,0,3947937.sto

NEW-NEW: 9 (Saturday) 3 to 4 pm — The Regulator Bookshop hosts: “Two NC authors share their visions of the strange with us on Saturday, March 9, at 3 p.m. Nathan Kotecki brings us The Suburban Strange. Celia discovers girls at Suburban High are having near fatal accidents on the eve of their 16th birthdays. Can 15-year-old Celia solve the mystery before her own next birthday? For ages 14+. PT McHugh presents Keeper of the Black Stones: Stone Ends, the first book in a new series. It’s a thrilling combination of fantasy and historical fiction with a likable, funny hero in Jason Evans. For ages 12+.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/301390523317829/

NEW-NEW: 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts A. J. HARTLEY – With Children’s Fantasy Darwen Arkwright & The Insidious Bleck.

MAY 2013

NEW-NEW: 4 (Saturday) — Free Comic Book Day, including events and of course free comics at all participating shops. Ultimate Comics will be hosting a very large party/gathering/thing in and around their store, including two free Jeremy Whitley comic books, one a split issue featuring Princeless and Jamal Igle’s new title “Molly Danger” and the other an NFL RushZone book. Stay tuned for lineups and plans from other local stores!


February newsletter: James Maxey, Kim Harrison, Cory Doctorow, and Brandon Sanderson! More!

Vol 3. No 2. January 28, 2013:

Welcome a bit early to the February newsletter! I’m sneaking this one in ahead of the end of the month to make sure everybody gets a chance to hear about the Witchbreaker book launch party tomorrow (Tuesday, January 29!) as Hillsborough’s Purple Crow Books hosts James Maxey for the third book in his Dragon Apocalypse trilogy. More info below in the events, but if you miss it, you’re also missing Cheryl’s dragon cookies! (As well as, hopefully, the chance to hear James reading as a very confused and very male dwarf who thinks he is a princess, increasingly shrill falsetto and all. Well, one can hope…)

I saw many familiar faces at illogiCon, and either met or finally got to have a conversation with a few I’d only barely met before. I thought it was a great second year for the convention, certainly more active and vibrant and I very much enjoyed myself, from the opening ceremonies with author guest of honor Tim Powers and toastmaster Mark Van Name, through panels, readings, and getting to interview Powers, more panels, more readings… Next year’s author guests of honor, Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence M. Shoen, were announced, and memberships for 2014 are already available.

In almost random news, I wanted to pass along that “City of Shadow and Glass” by Erin Hoffman, originally published in Bull Spec #4, is the latest episode of Tina Connolly’s Parsec Award-winning Toasted Cake podcast! Also, ConTemporal is seeking volunteers on Saturday March 23rd at 6:15 P.M. for a promotional event with UNC TV’s pledge drive. For more information or to sign up please visit their Volunteer Information and Sign Up Form. Now, to the events, which include Maxey’s book launch, bestselling authors Kim Harrison, Cory Doctorow, Brandon Sanderson, and more — and that’s before we even get out of February. See you out and about,

-Sam

Updates 2013-01-29: As usual a big list of “NEW-NEW” events came in as soon as I clicked “send”. Look again, maybe you missed something of interest!

JANUARY 2013

NEW: 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Hillsborough’s Purple Crow Books hosts a book launch party for Witchbreaker by James Maxey, book 3 in his Dragon Apocalypse series after Greatshadow and Hush. Reading and signing and of course Cheryl’s dragon cookies! More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/121899164647826/

FEBRUARY 2013

2 (Saturday) 3 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts NY Times bestselling urban fantasy author and NC native Kim Harrison for Ever After, the latest in her Hollows series.

NEW-NEW: 2 (Saturday) 5 to 7 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts Jared Axelrod, author of the Tor graphic novel The Battle of Blood & Ink: A Fable of the Flying City. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/418137048267731/

NEW-NEW: 11 (Monday) 5 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts PETER LERANGIS – Children’s Fantasy With The Colossus Rises.

NEW-NEW: 11 (Monday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Breathless Reads YA Tour: Meet Five Up and Coming Young Adult Authors – Fiona Paul (Venom), Beth Revis (Shades of Earth), Morgan Rhodes (Falling Kingdoms), Elizabeth Richards (Black City), and Jess Spotswood (Born Wicked).

NEW-NEW: 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Peter Lerangis, The Seven Wonders Book One: The Colossus Rises.

16 (Saturday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Cory Doctorow for Homeland, sequel to Little Brother. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/530598563635194/

NEW-NEW: 16 (Saturday) 9 pm til late — Davenport and Winkleperry hosts The Clockwork Ball: A Steampunk Party. “Attention Pilots of Airships and their Crews, Mad Scientists, Explorers of the Unknown, Admirers of Verbosity, Respecters of the Strange, Those Lost in the Throes of Opium or Absinthe, Teetotalers, Scallywags, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dandies, Fops, and Urchins… Our next event will be on Saturday February 16th, 2013 and… will feature a live performance by the outstanding FABLE CRY.  Hosted by that darling duo, Emmett Davenport & Lady Nikolai Attercop. They will be spinning Jazz, Blues, Swing, Dark Cabaret, Gypsy Punk, & Dance music from times gone by or times that never were. Doors at 8pm; Music begins at 9pm. Admission: 18+, 21+ to Drink; $5. Appropriate Attire is Encouraged, but never required.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/434531459951000/

20 (Wednesday) 7:30 pm – Quail Ridge Books again hosts best-selling author Brandon Sanderson, this time for the conclusion of The Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light. In addition, special guest Harriet McDougal will be joining Sanderson for the event. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/393451974063637/

22-24 (Friday-Sunday) — Durham’s Carolina Theatre hosts the Nevermore Film Festival. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/440070299375523/

22-24 (Friday-Sunday) — MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia, with Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore, Rich Sigfit, and more. More info: http://mysticon-va.com/

NEW: 23 (Saturday) 3 pm and 7 pm — Hillsborouth author John Claude Bemis is a participant on the Murphey School Radio Show at the Shared Visions Retreat Center at the Historic Murphey School in Durham, NC. “Spend a couple of hours laughing and singing along as we raise the roof of the historic Murphey School auditorium, a 1936 WPA project that has been lovingly restored by the Shared Visions Foundation as a nonprofit retreat and community center. This event will be recorded live!  PLEASE ARRIVE 1/2 HOUR BEFORE SHOWTIME!!!   For the 3:00pm show, doors will open at 2:15pm with the pre-show warm-up beginning at 2:30pm. Due to live recording, anyone arriving after 3:00pm will be admitted during intermission. For the 7:00pm show, doors will open at 6:15pm with the pre-show warm-up beginning at 6:30pm. Due to live recording, anyone arriving after 7:00pm will be admitted during intermission.” This is a ticketed event with a sliding for-charity scale: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/302008

NEW-NEW: 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Ariel Djanikian reads from her science fiction novel The Office of Mercy. Author Djanikian now calls Chapel Hill home, so let’s get out to welcome this new local author!

MARCH 2013

1-3 (Friday to Sunday) — StellarCon37 at the Greensboro – High Point Airport Marriott  with author Eric Flint, artist Richard Case, and game designer Steve Segedy. More info: http://stellarcon.com/

NEW-NEW: 2 (Saturday) 2 pm — David Drake will be at Circle City Books in Pittsboro to sign the new paperback edition of The Road of Danger and read from the forthcoming The Heretic – the bookstore was recently written up in the LA Times for its fantastic mural of a bookshelf (which features one of Drake’s books, “With the Lightnings”: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-now-thats-a-wall-of-books-20130123,0,3947937.sto

NEW-NEW: 9 (Saturday) 3 to 4 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts: “Two NC authors share their visions of the strange with us on Saturday, March 9, at 3 p.m. Nathan Kotecki brings us The Suburban Strange. Celia discovers girls at Suburban High are having near fatal accidents on the eve of their 16th birthdays. Can 15-year-old Celia solve the mystery before her own next birthday? For ages 14+. PT McHugh presents Keeper of the Black Stones: Stone Ends, the first book in a new series. It’s a thrilling combination of fantasy and historical fiction with a likable, funny hero in Jason Evans. For ages 12+.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/301390523317829/

NEW-NEW: 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts A. J. HARTLEY – With Children’s Fantasy Darwen Arkwright & The Insidious Bleck.

NEW-NEW: 22 (Friday) 7 pm — B&N of Cary hosts Hugo Award winning Pittsboro graphic novelist Ursula Vernon for book #8 in her Danny Dragonbreath series of graphic novels for young readers, “Nightmare of the Iguana”. More info: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/4231658

NEW-NEW: 28 (Thursday) 7 pm — B&N of Cary hosts Jeaniene Frost for Twice Tempted. More info: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/79120

TBD: We’re putting something together for the Bull Spec #8 launch party / slash / NC Speculative Fiction night. Stay tuned!

APRIL 2013

5-21 — NC Science Festival with events statewide. More info: http://www.ncsciencefestival.org/

NEW-NEW: 9 (Tuesday) 7 pm — B&N of Cary hosts Tony Daniel and David Drake for The Heretic. More info: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/78969

NEW: 13-14 (Saturday-Sunday) — Durham Arts Council’s Spring Art Walk. More info: http://durhamartwalk.com/

19-21 (Fri-Sun) — DeepSouthCon at JordanCon in Roswell, Georgia with guests Seanan McGuire, Eugie Foster, and Michael Whelan, along with the Phoenix and Rebel Awards.

23 (Tuesday) — World Book Night worldwide. For more info on how to get involved as a book-giver: http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/how-do-i-get-involved/apply-giver-us

24-25 (Wed-Thu) — East Coast Game Conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. More info: http://www.ecgconf.com/

MAY 2013

NEW-NEW: 4 (Saturday) — Free Comic Book Day, including events and of course free comics at all participating shops. Ultimate Comics will be hosting a very large party/gathering/thing in and around their store, including two free Jeremy Whitley comic books, one a split issue featuring Princeless and Jamal Igle’s new title “Molly Danger” and the other an NFL RushZone book. Stay tuned for lineups and plans from other local stores!

JUNE 2013

May 31 – June 2 (Friday to Sunday) — ConCarolinas in Charlotte, with writer guest of honor Timothy Zahn. More info: http://www.concarolinas.org/

27-30 (Thursday to Sunday) — ConTemporal 2013 at the North Raleigh Hilton, beginning with the Thursday evening guest of honor dinner and continuing all weekend, as this Steampunk-themed convention is back for a second year. Guest of honor Ursula Vernon, along with Lee Martindale, Tom Smith, toastmaster Sal Sanfratello, and more. More info: http://contemporal.org/

AUGUST 2013

NEW: 3 (Saturday) 7 to 9 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts the annual Bull Spec summer speculative fiction event. This year it is an absolutely fantastic lineup with Karen Lord, Nathan Ballingrud, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and Will Hindmarch!

OCTOBER 2013

NEW: 4-6 (Friday to Sunday) — Second Escapist Expo. More info: http://www.escapistexpo.com/

NOVEMBER 2013

9-10 (Saturday and Sunday) — NC Comicon will be returning to the Durham Convention Center. “Twice the space, four times the fun. It’s exponential.”

JANUARY 2014

NEW: 10-12 (Friday to Sunday) — illogiCon iii: The Search for Schrödington’s Gold at the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle, with author guests of honor Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence M. Shoen. More info: http://www.illogicon.com/


WUNC’s The State of Things to air interview with Samuel R. Delany

Today (Thursday Jan 24) in the noon hour Eastern Time, WUNC’s The State of Things will have author Samuel R. Delany on in a taped phone interview segment. It will broadcast over the airwaves state-wide at noon, with a re-broadcast at 9 pm. Additionally, at both broadcast times, Internet listening is available through both MP3 streaming and Windows Media streaming, and later today the segment should be available on the show’s podcast, to which you can subscribe or check for episode listings both for iTunes and an RSS feed. The overall show topic is “white life” novels by African American Authors, and among other things, host Frank Stasio talks with Delany about his latest novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders.

Samuel R. Delany in Kyle Cassidy’s “Where I Write” project.

Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders


The Hardest Part: Gail Z. Martin on Ice Forged

After six books across two publishers in the world of her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin‘s new book, Ice Forged (Orbit, January 2013) remains firmly in epic fantasy territory but otherwise starts an entirely new world. While earlier this week The Exploding Spaceship reviewed the book, here Martin writes that yes, indeed, while starting from scratch can be a refreshing change of pace, it was also the hardest part of creating her newest book.

Ice Forged

By Gail Z. Martin:

For me, the hardest part of writing Ice Forged was getting the world clear in my own mind after spending so long in my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kingdoms universe.  Ice Forged is a completely different series with all-new characters and an all-new world.  I had to step out of my comfort zone, built over several years, and re-imagine how magic works in this new place, what the political issues are, and how the characters fit into all this.

It’s a lot like moving into a new city—you’ve got to get the lay of the land straight in your head, figure out the best grocery stores, find the gas station, etc. Once you’ve lived there awhile, you navigate by landmarks and you know the regulars.  You create a “history” with people and places that make you feel at home.  Before a reader can move into a fictional “neighborhood”  and make it home, the author has to create that neighborhood—or world—and it has to become real to the author.  In my experience, it takes a bit of knocking around in that world to feel like a native, but once you’ve reached that point, you want to show visitors all around this great new place and convince them to vacation there.

—-

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: http://a.pgtb.me/JvGzTt


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

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Ice Forged By Gail Z. Martin out January 8, 2013 from Orbit

                Ice Forged is the story of what one man from Donderath, Blaine McFadden, will do to save his little sister Mari from harm. He gets sentenced to the penal colony of Velant for his trouble. Years pass and Blaine, now known as Mick has earned his ticket out of the labor camp and has set up homesteading with some friends, one of whom becomes his wife, who shortly passes away from illness. Mick and his friends are doing all right for themselves farming, with a side job fishing in order to have enough food for the long winters.

Six years after being sent to Velant and just as things are starting to look somewhat comfortable (if cold) on their homestead, Mick’s world is turned upside down when the magic of the world suddenly disappears. A refugee ship from Mick’s homeland comes bringing the news that war and the disappearance of magic from the world have destroyed Donderath. Mick and his friends travel back there to try and see if they can get the magic to return, but this is an epic task, and so won’t be completed for several books. In this book, they do reach Donderath and Mick learns some things to help him in his task.

Ice-Forged-cover-21-140x227Blaine/Mick is an interesting and well-developed main character. His housemates are interesting as well. Their relationships at the homestead and then they reach Donderath are quite different because Velant does not have the class distinctions which are present in Donderath. These differences are quite well done and it is interesting to see what the commoners thought about those who were noble, but had not identified as such or those who said they trafficked with nobles.

This first volume has more of man-fighting-for survival-in-a-very-cold-place than it does battle scenes, but the few it has are done well with the ex-soldier characters being much more familiar with weapons than those with no experience except in practice. Vampires are introduced in this volume but their origins are not discussed, so we look forward to seeing more about their history in future volumes.

As in her previous works, the author focuses on gray characters, neither good nor bad; how they are perceived depends on the viewers’ perspective. Blaine/Mick is a recovering damaged hero whom you want to succeed and maybe find some happiness along the way.  He has some happy moments in this volume, so there is hope that the balance of hardship and happiness which made this volume so enjoyable will continue in future volumes. This book is a good beginning to a new epic fantasy series.

The author can be found on the web at http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/ , on Facebook under Winter Kingdoms and on Twitter (@GailZMartin).

See Gail Z. Martin in the next few weeks at Chattacon Jan 25-27, Shevacon Feb 8-10 and Mysticon Feb 22-24.


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Sunset of the Gods by Steve White

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Sunset of the Gods Out January 1, 2013 in trade paperback from Baen

2nd Volume in the Jason Thanou Series

(1st volume was Blood of the Heroes and 3rd Volume will be Pirates of the Timestream)

Jason and his three person team are sent back to 490 B.C. to investigate the appearance of the Greek god Pan, who is associated with the battle of Marathon.

The pseudoscience explaining how time travel works is well done with the author accounting for all of the obvious problems. Reality protects itself so if you change something, it will modify something else to compensate, but you might not like what it modifies, so be careful about changes.

After the discovery of the Teloi aliens on Earth in the distant past acting as gods in the last book, their influence on past events closer in time to the present was a major concern. No trace of them had been found in interstellar explorations so at some point they must have died out, but when and how was unknown.

sunset of the gods coverThe Teloi are still something of a villainous presence in this volume, but evil humans have come onto the scene as well, and in some ways have taken advantage of the Teloi, who are all quite old at this point. Pan’s identity is discovered, but he is really not an enemy; both Jason and the reader feel sorry for him and this has a decided impact on the situation with the aliens and the humans taking advantage of them.

Fixing everything requires two expeditions into the past and also the use of future technology while there, which is potentially quite dangerous to temporal stability, but Jason is discreet and uses stealth and tech to hide it. Jason is a military character, who is sort of on detached duty, but he tends to be an officer who uses his brain as much or more than his martial prowess.  This is not really a surprise, given the background of the author, but it is still a pleasant change from common warrior depictions.  Even during the fight scenes, you see what Jason is thinking, not just him hacking at the opponent.  The fight scenes are realistically short, so it is interesting to see the character come out of the fight and realize the situation around him has not changed much.

The views of the battle of Marathon are interesting with enough info to give a sense of being there without it feeling like a data dump.  Overall it is a good time travel adventure story with characters using period accurate weapons (some of which were quite interesting) as well as some future tech.  Jason is a well-developed main character who has some interesting sidekicks, who hopefully will reappear in future volumes. The chemistry between the characters is well done with it not the same between everyone and Jason. So he is a realistic team leader who relates to everyone in the best way for them.

We look forward to a much quicker return to this universe for Jason to battle the real pirates of the Caribbean in volume 3, Pirates of the Timestream, due out this coming August.

Readers can meet Steve White at Shevacon, February 8-10, 2013.


Friday quick updates: Jan 18-19 readings from Hal Johnson, and The Screwtape Letters

Whew! Last weekend’s illogiCon was really fantastic; I’ve leave the con reports to others for now (Natania Barron rounds up a couple, including JL Hilton’s, here) but I do have some photos, and I’m working on transcribing the Tim Powers interview as well. It was absolutely fantastic to meet Mr. Powers, whose books really are wonderful reads. I’d been reading (and in some cases re-reading) some of his books ahead of the convention, and even though the convention’s past I’ve kept going on that front because, man, how can you stop in the middle of Declare? Anyway, there are some events this weekend to tell you guys about, including three stops by author Hal Johnson, whose book Immortal Lycanthropes Cory Doctorow calls a “YA novel unlike any other. … Required reading for budding happy mutants and their grownups.” More info below:

18 (Friday) 7 pm — The Regulator Bookshop hosts Hal Johnson: “Immortal Lycanthropes tells the incredible story of Myron Horowitz, a disfigured thirteen-year-old just trying to fit in at his Pennsylvania school. When a fight with a bully leaves him unconscious and naked in the wreckage of the cafeteria, Myron discovers that he is an immortal lycanthrope—a were-mammal who can transform from human to animal. He also discovers that there are others like him, and many of them want Myron dead.  Hal Johnson will be in the store to read and sign books.”

19 (Saturday) 1 pm — Atomic Empire hosts Hal Johnson (see above for book info) for a signing. Another reminder that Atomic Empire is the relocated and renamed “Sci Fi Genre”, now at 3400 Westgate Dr Suite 14B in Durham.

19 (Saturday) 7 pm — Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books hosts Hal Johnson (see above for book info) for a reading and signing. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/hal-johnson-reads-his-new-young-adult-novel-immortal-lycanthropes

Immortal Lycanthropes

19 (Saturday) 4 pm and 8 pm — The Durham Performing Arts Center hosts a staging of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, presented by Fellowship for the Performing Arts.

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See you out and about, -Sam.


The Hardest Part: Daniel M. Kimmel on Shh! It’s a Secret

Daniel M. Kimmel’s last book, a collection of sf film criticism entitled Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work; it also contained Kimmel’s review of Them!, a 1954 film about atomic bomb radiation creating giant ants which first appeared in Bull Spec #6. Now he’s back with another book, this time his debut novel, in which Kimmel takes his often funny and insightful comments about Hollywood and sf filmmaking and turns it into a comedic sf tale Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic, Jan 15). It’s got some pretty nice blurbs, including being called “An absolute joy.” by no less than Robert J. Sawyer. I’m very glad to welcome Kimmel “back” to Bull Spec with this contribution to The Hardest Part guest column.

By Daniel M. Kimmel: “It’s Magic”

Last January I noted on my blog that I was typing anew the 300 page manuscript to my novel which my publisher has agreed to read and consider for publication. I no longer had access to the computer file and my agent could not locate her copy. It was a process that was going to take several weeks.

Now I have no idea of who chooses to read my blog entries and was surprised to hear from my friend David. He had offered to scan the printed copy of the manuscript that I had which I had decided was a short term solution. If my publisher liked the novel, we would still need it in an editable format. He wondered why I had decided to pass on scanning, and then he asked if I knew what OCR was.

Orange County Register? Old Colony Railroad? Orthodox/Conservative/Reform? I couldn’t imagine any of these had anything to do with my problem so I said I had no idea. It turns out to stand for Optical Character Recognition. Apparently it is a computer program that can scan a PDF file and convert its letters and numbers into a Word file. That, of course, solved my problem.

David got the manuscript from me on a Saturday night. I was away on Sunday. I came home Monday and found I could quickly edit, revise and compile the manuscript. In two days the job was done and the manuscript was sent off to my agent for submission. With some minor revisions and a title change it was accepted, and is now released as Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide.

David, of course, receives prominent thanks in the acknowledgements even though I have no idea of what he did or how it worked. What was clear was that Arthur C. Clarke was correct when he noted that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. David claimed he used OCR software. For all I know he burned incense and sacrificed a chicken.

All I know is that it worked and for that he has my undying gratitude.

——

Daniel M. Kimmel is past president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. His reviews appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for 25 years and can now be found at Northshoremovies.net.  He is local correspondent for Variety, the “Movie Maven” for the Jewish Advocate and teaches film at Suffolk University. He writes on science fiction films for Space and Time magazine and has appeared in Cinefantastique, Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. His book on the history of FOX TV, The Fourth Network received the Cable Center Book Award. His other books include a history of DreamWorks, The Dream Team, and  I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies.  He was nominated for a Hugo Award for  Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies. His latest is his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide.


Day one of illogiCon is here! Also: Gail Z. Martin starts a new fantasy series with Ice Forged

With registration opening at noon, and opening ceremonies and programming (and the dealer’s room) getting started at 3, illogiCon ii: Schrodington’s Revenge is finally here:

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There are readings, panels (I’m moderating one on “The Local Scene” at 5 pm) and then later this evening, a dance, more panels (Liars’ Panel, SF as Covert Commentary on the Real World, etc.) and filk gets going as well. There are day passes available, as well as (of course!) weekend-long registrations, so come on by the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle at 201 Harrison Oaks Blvd in Cary (just off of I-40 at the Harrison exit). Meet: Writer Guest of Honor Tim Powers! Webcomic Guest of Honor Garth Graham! Toastmaster Mark L. Van Name! And a long, long line of guests including legendary Analog editor Stanley Schmidt.

Also, I want to take the time to highlight a regional author book release this week:

Ice Forged

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit) starts a new fantasy series, Ascendant Kingdoms, for the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series: “Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.”

So! Head to your local bookstore and support your local authors! Also, you can read an interview in which Martin describes how the series came about.


What to Do With That Gift Card, Part 2: Science Fiction Reads for 2012

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Here are some suggestions for what to spend your holiday gift cards on if you are a science fiction reader.

First, a couple of caveats: in order to pare down the number of books we need to cover, we the reviewers are sticking primarily with authors or publishers from the southeastern part of the US, and we gave fantasy and science fiction titles for middle grades and teens their own post.

BacktotheMoonCoverIn order of release date, January 2012 saw Baen’s paperback release of Back to the Moon by Travis Taylor and Les Johnson. This is the story of a United States space mission to return to the Moon, and nobody presents near-future NASA tech better than co-author Les Johnson: his day-job is at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Along with Doc Travis’s multiple science/defense jobs it means that all the real stuff crosses one of their desks, and the two guys from Huntsville present everything, even details about such things as advanced spacecraft propulsion systems, in an easy-to-read style.

Back to the Moon is, at its heart, a “daring rescue” story: the American astronauts discover that a lunar mission launched by China has arrived on the Moon first, but a malfunction has caused the spacecraft to crash, stranding the crew.  The problem then becomes one of how to get everyone safely back to Earth.

The characters from both groups of spacers are well-developed and believable, and the scenes on the lunar surface are tense and exciting. Some of the technology presented in the story has already been canceled (the SpaceX  Falcon and Dragon spacecraft were not nearly as far along when the book was written), so Back to the Moon could be read as an alternate future history in which NASA developments continued on track, but it remains a solid science fiction adventure.

Guardian of Night by Tony Daniel was released in trade paperback in February 2012. Daniel is Baen’s newest editor, and this is his first sf novel in a few years.

Guardian of Night 2Earth has been attacked by aliens and only two percent of the human population remains alive. The attackers, called the sceeve, were poised to finish humanity off and strip the planet of its resources, but the impending extermination was cancelled when the alien forces suddenly withdrew.

But now word has come that the sceeve are returning to finish the job and a group of sceeve renegades on the run from their repressive government and armed with a single ship and a powerful artifact seek to side with humanity and engage the oncoming menace.  Only one human being is able to communicate with the bizarre creatures.  Can the Solar System be saved?

Guardian of Night is military SF with a heaping helping of old-school space adventure, seen through the eyes of several well-developed characters, both human and alien, most of whom have lost all of their immediate families to the devastation of the war.

The science that Daniels uses in the story is all extrapolated from current knowledge, despite appearing a bit fantastical in places, but then a twenty-first century smartphone would appear fantastical to someone from the 1950s.

The biology behind the sceeve, who live in a helium-rich, high-pressure atmosphere, communicate primarily by pheromones, and eat through their feet is only cursorily addressed, but the characters are so fully realized and the novel is so briskly paced that the reader has little time to dwell on such oddities.

If you like such stories as The Mote in God’s Eye, Footfall, or James White’s Sector General stories, then Guardian of Night is a book for you.

Military SF readers had a busy spring, first with Daniel’s novel and then books from Baen’s regulars following in March, April, and May.

In March came the release of another David Weber book, this time the new Honorverse hardcover volume called A Rising Thunder. The unseen enemy who appears to be trying to start an interstellar war drives most of the plot in this book.  The Solarian League Navy continues to do unexplainable things and get itself into deeper trouble.  The unseen enemy is visible more to the reader than to any of the characters in the story, so the bigger picture becomes clearer.

ARisingThunderCoverThe treecats play a prominent and welcome role in defending the Star Empire of Manticore against the plottings of its enemies, and President Pritchart and Empress Elizabeth figure more prominently than they have previously.  They are both very interesting leaders, and Honor’s views and understanding of them both is handled well.

The planets Grayson and Beowulf also figure into the story, and characters from both worlds make their presence felt in the Star Empire.  The story also sees the marriage of Roger Winton, introducing the reader to the woman who will be heir to the Manticoran throne.  Honor is the woman’s (please pardon the pun!) maid of honor, and the Harrington relatives from Beowulf also put in an appearance as wedding guests.

As usual, David Weber delivers an exciting read, with equal measures of labyrinthine political intrigue and space battles of cosmic proportions.

Road-of-DangercoverDavid Drake had the ninth volume in his space adventure series, The Road of Danger released in April 2012. David Drake’s newest volume of the adventures of Captain Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy sends them off separately to arrive in the Sunbright system to capture a rebel leader who is a Cinnabar citizen.

Their ship the Princess Cecile is disguised and Adele plays a noblewoman while Daniel becomes a laid-off lieutenant on half-pay and takes a berth on a blockade runner.

There is some interesting single-ship combat involving the Princess Cecile as well as the usual espionage and political intrigue present in all the Leary stories.  In each volume Adele’s behavior becomes more self-controlled and she better realizes when to use the crew to help her, sometimes for morale purposes since she could do most of it herself.

Leary and his servant/surrogate father Hogg continue to deepen their relationship and their understanding of what each of them needs to do their job, resulting in better coordinated efforts by the pair.

A good space adventure with interesting ship technology involving sails and rigging and engaging characters who have grown and changed over time, any volume featuring Daniel Leary and the deadly librarian Adele Mundy is definitely worth a read.

April also saw Baen release the paperback of Extremis, a return to the Starfire wargame universe in a sequel to Exodus, and series author Steve White has a new writing partner: Charles Gannon.

extremisThe story is told from the perspective of the human inhabitants of the Bellerophon system, which in the previous book was invaded by an armada that came not through a warp point (a naturally-occurring spacetime distortion that allows instantaneous travel between two star systems) but at sub-light speed from the depths of interstellar space, and also from the perspective of the fleet personnel who are trying to break in and retake the system.  Ian Trevayne returns in this story, and as usual his solutions to fleet battle situations are anything but ordinary.

There is also a third perspective, that of the invading Baldies, or Arduans as they call themselves, who are completely unresponsive to human attempts to communicate.  This communication barrier leads to many misunderstandings, and how this barrier is finally breached is as large a part of the story as the space battles which are a Starfire staple.

The Arduans themselves are an interesting and well-thought-out alien species, and seeing humans from their point of view doesn’t do the humans any favors, but the Arduans are not saints by any means.  All the characters, both human and alien, are well-developed and change as the story progresses, particularly those who interact regularly with members of the opposing species.

Of course, like any Starfire novel, there are very large numbers of very large spaceships blowing up, and this story will satisfy even the most jaded explosion-junkie.

Extremis is a good reading choice for fans of epic space battles and interesting aliens, and since the plot of this story is centered mostly around a single star system, familiarity with previous Starfire novels or the wargame on which those novels are based not required.

May saw the release of No Going Back, the new volume in Mark Van Name’s  Jon and Lobo series from Baen and then we skip to November when we see the Baen hardcover release of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (see The Exploding Spaceship review here) and also the Baen paperback release of Carnelians from Catherine Asaro. This is Book 3 of the Saga of the Skolian Empire. Kelric, the Skolian Imperator, and his aunt Dehya are attacked through the Kyle web (sort of World Wide Web accessed by technologically-induced telepathy). While this is happening, Kelric’s rock star brother Del appears to release a song called “Carnelians Finale” which has lyrics undermining the peace treaty between the Eubian Empire and the Skolian Imperialate. To sort out the mess a summit is set up for the 2 sides to meet in person, but the security issues for both sides cause many delays. Eventually it takes place but of course it does not go smoothly.

carnelians coverThe family intrigue and interstellar politics provide an interesting and complex plot with interesting characters. Del, the renegade rock musician brother, travels off Earth for the first time in recent memory, which surprises even Kelric. The views of Earth and its inhabitants are quite interesting and not really favorable.

cosmic christmas coverDecember brings a Christmas volume edited by Hank Davis with some older reprints which most of today’s readers would not have seen before, as well as some newer stories from Baen authors like Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt. Both of their stories involve characters from book series, Larry’s from Grimnoir and Sarah’s from the Darkship Series.  Sarah Hoyt also has a new December release, Darkship Renegades, the sequel to Darkship Thieves. They return to Eden but this has unwelcome consequences and they are soon going back to Earth.  They have a European adventure which sees some of Thena’s friends appear and she gets news of what has happened to her home and the surrounding area since she killed her father in the last book. They return to Eden and a guerilla war results in changes on Eden for everyone.


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