Announcement: The third annual Bull Spec summer speculative fiction event!

March 29, 2013, DURHAM, NC — Bull Spec is delighted to announce its third annual summer speculative fiction event, to be held Saturday August 3, 2013 at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC from 7 to 9 pm. The event series once again hosts a selection of Wofford College’s Shared Worlds Teen Writing Summer Camp visiting writers, headlined by Mythopoeic and William L. Crawford Award-winning author Karen Lord – who is traveling from Barbados — and including Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Will Hindmarch, Robert V.S. Redick, and Asheville’s Nathan Ballingrud, for an evening of readings, remarks, discussion, and a book signing. Additionally, joining the visiting authors will be Durham author Mur Lafferty. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer headlined the inaugural event in the series in 2011 with their anthology The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities and Jeff VanderMeer’s (along with S.J. Chambers) The Steampunk Bible, at Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery in partnership with The Regulator Bookshop, while this marks the first local readings for Lord, Hindmarch, and Ballingrud. Following the reading, from 9 pm to 11 pm, The Raleigh Review is hosting a reception (also free and open to the public) at their Writers’ Loft.

karen-lord-best-worlds things-we-think-about-games The Night of the Swarm (The Chathrand Voyage, #4) north-american-lake-monsters steampunk-revolution wonderbook The Shambling Guide to New York City

ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS:

Karen Lord has been a physics teacher, a diplomat, a part-time soldier and an academic at various times and in various countries. She is now a writer and research consultant in Barbados. Her debut novel Redemption in Indigo won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, the 2010 Carl Brandon Parallax Award, the 2011 William L. Crawford Award, the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and the 2012 The Kitcshies Golden Tentacle Award for Best Debut Novel. It was also longlisted for the 2011 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her latest novel The Best of All Possible Worlds won the 2009 Frank Collymore Literary Award, and was just published worldwide by Jo Fletcher Books.

Will Hindmarch is a Chicago-based freelance writer and designer with numerous professional credits as author, developer, and graphic designer on games, books, and magazines. He previously worked with Green Ronin Publishing as developer of the likes of the Dragon Age RPG. Will’s writing has appeared in The Escapist, Atlanta magazine, Geek Monthly, Everywhere and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He was a judge for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning competition in 2007, 2010, and 2011.

Robert V.S. Redick is the author of The Chathrand Voyage Quartet, recently completed with book 4, The Night of the Swarm, in February. Redick studied literature and Russian at the University of Virginia, tropical conservation and development at the University of Florida, and fiction writing in the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. He has worked as the editor for the Spanish and French websites of the antipoverty organization Oxfam America, and as an instructor in the International Development, Community & Environment (IDCE) Department at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

Nathan Ballingrud won the Shirley Jackson Award for “The Monsters of Heaven.” His stories have appeared in Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy, Lovecraft Unbound, Teeth: Vampire Tales, and Inferno: New Tales of Terror, among other places, and have been reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies several times. His first book, North American Lake Monsters: Stories, will have just been published by Small Beer Press prior to the event.

Ann VanderMeer currently serves as an acquiring short fiction editor for Tor.com, Cheeky Frawg Books, and Weirdfictionreview.com. She was the editor-in-chief for Weird Tales for five years, during which time she was nominated three times for the Hugo Award, winning one. Along with nominations for the Shirley Jackson Award, she also has won a World Fantasy Award and a British Fantasy Award for co-editing The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Other projects have included Best American Fantasy, two Steampunk anthologies, and a humor book, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals. Her latest anthologies include Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and an as-yet anthology of feminist speculative fiction.

Jeff VanderMeer has been published in over twenty countries. He recently signed a three-book, six-figure deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His novels have made the year’s best lists of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and he is the recipient of both an NEA-funded Florida Individual Writers’ Fellowship and Travel Grant. VanderMeer is a three-time winner of the World Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and Shirley Jackson Awards, among others. He also regularly reviews books for the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, Los Angeles Times Book Review, and the Washington Post. He has lectured at MIT, the Library of Congress, and many other institutions. He has a forthcoming writing book: WonderBook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, and his Southern Reach trilogy, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in early 2014, has been optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Mur Lafferty is the author of Playing For Keeps, The Afterlife Series, and Marco and the Red Granny. She recently stepped down as the editor of Escape Pod magazine and is a pioneer podcaster behind the shows I Should Be Writing and the Angry Robot Books Podcast. Her novel The Shambling Guide to New York City will be published by Orbit in late May.

ABOUT THE EVENT SERIES:

  • 2011: At Fullsteam Brewery in conjunction with The Regulator Bookshop, with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, S.J. Chambers, Ekaterina Sedia, Scott Eagle, Mur Lafferty, Jeremy L.C. Jones, Nadine Wilson, and Dale Mettam, featuring The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, The Steampunk Bible, and Bull Spec #6.
  • 2012: At Flyleaf Books, with T.C. McCarthy and Michael J. Sullivan, featuring Chimera, The Heir of Novron, and Bull Spec #7.

ABOUT SHARED WORLDS:

Shared Worlds is a two-week residential summer camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, based on a “shared world” theme. A shared world is a growing trend in fiction that centers around a complete, fictional world designed by a group. During Wofford’s Shared World program, students will design fantasy worlds with other young, creative writers and share those worlds through fiction, art, and game design.

ABOUT BULL SPEC:

Bull Spec was founded by publisher Samuel Montgomery-Blinn (Durham, NC) in 2009 to give a voice and vehicle to the area’s writers, artists, and critics of science fiction and fantasy. The eighth issue of the print magazine is forthcoming, to be launched on World Book Night, Tuesday, April 23 at Durham’s Atomic Empire at 7 pm.

ABOUT THE RALEIGH REVIEW:

The Raleigh Review is a literary and arts magazine founded in 2010, supported by United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, with funds from the United Arts campaign as well as the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. Their Writers’ Loft is located in Raleigh’s Sunset Hills Neighborhood at 3039 Medlin Drive.

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RELATED EVENTS

Sunday August 4: The Orange County Library hosts Karen Lord for a “meet the author” event at its Main Library in Hillsborough, starting at 4 pm.

Monday August 5: The Chapel Hill Library hosts Karen Lord for a “meet the author tea”. Refreshments start at 3:30 with the program starting at 4 pm.

Monday August 5: Flyleaf Books hosts Karen Lord for a reading and signing of The Best of All Possible Worlds. From 7 to 8 pm.


Friday Quick Updates: Ursula Vernon tonight! Then: ConTemporal at UNC-TV, Jeaniene Frost, and Richard Case

Before I get to the imminently forthcoming events, I have to take a quick moment to thank Jaym Gates again for putting the April 23 World Book Night / NC Speculative Fiction Night / Bull Spec Launch Party extravaganza together. It’s going to be a great lineup of game designers and writers, authors, translators, and a huge crew of Bull Spec #8 contributors, and I hope a whole lot of you (and your friends and random strangers!) help make it a great night. (And it will be good to see Jaym again after far too long as well!) OK, that’s done, so on to the upcoming events!

Dragonbreath #8: Nightmare of the Iguana Jeaniene Frost

MARCH 2013

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

23 (Saturday) 6:15 pm to 11:30 pm — ConTemporal 2013 will be promoted live on UNC-TV as part of taking phone calls for a UNC-TV pledge drive. “We will be taking pledges live on TV from UNC TV viewers. Please come dressed to show off your best Steampunk costuming! Costuming is not required but strongly encouraged. Why: UNC TV will be promoting ConTemporal 2013 live on air as part of this event. We must have a minimum of 20 volunteers to qualify for promotion. Please invite your friends, family and anyone interested in Steampunk and ConTemporal.” Training for volunteers begins promptly at 6:30, at 10 T.W. Alexander Drive in Durham.More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/533874939997393/?ref=3

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

29 (Friday) 6-9 pm — Hillsborough’s Skylight Gallery hosts local artist Richard Case for an evening of art and music. From Case: “Some of my recent work with Jeff Mcfadyen… Hope to see some locals come out to Hillsborough to see some art, hear some music and hobnob in a general sort of way.” More info: http://www.skylightgallerync.com/jem/Welcome.html

29-31 (Friday to Sunday) — Durham’s Atomic Empire (formerly Sci-Fi Genre Comics and Games) hosts a 3-day Magic: Vintage tournament. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/251182025017359/

APRIL 2013

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

6 (Saturday) 7 pm — Bull Spec art director Gabriel Dunston is launching his new illustrated children’s book “The Castle on the Crag” at All Fun N Games in Cary, Saturday April 6th from 7pm-9pm (or later): http://www.firelightsmedia.com/2013/03/20/new-book-castle-on-the-crag/

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

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Announcement: World Book Night / NC Speculative Fiction Night / Bull Spec #8 Launch Party!

North Carolina Speculative Fiction Night

Presented by Bull Spec Magazine

Hosted by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn and Jaym Gates

Celebrating World Book Night, North Carolina Authors, and Bull Spec Magazine

Atomic Empire, 7pm, Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3400 Westgate Drive, Suite 14B

Durham, NC 27707

Special Guests

Rich Dansky, Steve Long, Justin Achilli, Matthew Ross

Bull Spec Magazine Contributors

Gwendolyn Clare, Rich Matrunick, Brenda Kalt, Peter Wood and Paul Celmer, Alice Holleman

 Join fellow writers, artists, critics, readers, and fans of science fiction and fantasy to celebrate World Book Night with a panel of local and regional creators. Guests will read, discuss, and sign their work, ranging from the Monster Hunters International game by Steve Long to a new short story collection, Snowbird Gothic, by Richard Dansky to a new English translation of best-selling French fantasy novel, Six Heirs: The Secret of Ji by Matthew Ross, to the launch of the latest issue of Bull Spec Magazine.

Snowbird GothicSix Heirs (The Secret of Ji, #1)

Atomic Empire, formerly Sci-Fi Genre Comics & Games, is Durham’s premiere home for board, trading card, roleplaying games, and miniatures, comics and graphic novels, and, as it happens, a great selection of draft and bottled beer. It also boasts a “local authors” book section and a huge area of tables for open gaming and tournaments.

Bull Spec was founded in 2009 to give a voice and vehicle to the area’s writers, artists, and critics of science fiction and fantasy.

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[Facebook Event] [Goodreads Event]

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The Exploding Spaceship Middle Grades Family Reading Edition: Review of Mirage by Jenn Reese

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Review of Mirage by Jenn Reese (Candlewick Press, March 5, 2013).

Mirage is the second volume of the Above World middle grades science fiction series by Jenn Reese.

Most middle grades books in the science fiction and fantasy area are fantasy; an actual science fiction adventure without fantasy elements is rare.  This series is science fiction set on an Earth where groups of humans were adapted for different extreme environments because of planet-wide ecological issues.  Different groups of people live under the ocean, in the high mountains, and in the desert.  The main character of the series is Aluna, a girl from an isolationist undersea community. She decides that the elders will never solve the community’s problems so she must do it. In the first volume she is too young to have a tail instead of legs, but when she reaches 13 and can swallow the seed which will change her legs into a tail, her lack of respect for authority gets her kicked out of the coming-of-age ceremony.  She simply takes her seed with her and runs away to the surface.  As the second book opens, she and her friends are traveling in the desert after having defeated the evil clone man who was restricting the power to the underwater cities of Aluna’s people.

They go to warn the desert Equians of the evil clones who are trying to take control of the various cities. Things don’t go as planned since the clone is already there and entrenched with the leadership.  The group picks up some new friends and has another trip through the desert to another desert city but it is inhabited by Serpenti. Dash had made friends with one when the Equians captured a couple of Serpenti, so they are given refuge and healed rather than killed.  There is a big gathering of Equians where the leader of all the tribes will be determined, so all the young people and their friends attend and take part. Will the evil clone be revealed as the dishonorable woman she is or will the High Khan be fooled?

This book is an exciting science fiction adventure with horses, martial arts, geeks who repair technology, and young teen characters who bond together and make their own family.  Also Aluna and Dash seem to have a bit of love interest starting up.  The cover art on both volumes would never have led us to pick them up as the designs in no way depict science fiction, but because Reese’s name was known to us from a previous adult book with a martial arts heroine that we really liked (Jade Tiger, published by Juno in 2007), we saw her announcement on Facebook and went in search of them.  You should, too.

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The female lead is strong and an independent thinker who realizes that the adults are wrong to not seek help from other groups.  All the adults seem to be bound by honor and they nearly let honor cause them to kill young teens who disagree with them.  The martial arts training Aluna does as she moves around between groups is well done and realistic.  The psychology of Aluna in regards to her training was particularly well done, and rang completely true with Your Humble Reviewers, who have some years of martial arts experience themselves.   The science is not dealt with in-depth because of the age level, but given the far future time period and that everything was done by gene modification, nothing jumped out as being implausible.

A science fiction adventure with a martial arts heroine who rides an intelligent horse and has a boyfriend who wields a big sword? What young person wouldn’t love it? Aluna’s two techie best friends are also a couple, one a winged girl from the mountain area and the other a younger boy from Aluna’s village who has followed her across the world. All four are strong and interesting characters that have formed sibling-like bonds as they have traveled, fought, and rescued each other.


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews The Golden Age of Death by Amber Benson

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Review of The Golden Age of Death by Amber Benson (Ace Feb 26, 2013)

This is the fifth volume of Amber Benson’s stories about Calliope Reaper-Jones (Callie), the daughter of the Grim Reaper. The Reaper himself is deceased, making Callie the CEO of his company Death, Inc. Callie is like many 20-somethings, with worries about her job and its future, her family and her boyfriend.

However, her job is now to be Death and to survive the attacks of the ender of Death who killed her father. When the situation in the afterlife is so bad that the ender of death wants to ally with Death, then the whole universe must be on the verge of self-destruction.

Her family and her boyfriend want to help, but they can’t cooperate, so instead of heeding the advice of Jarvis the butler they all do their own thing, causing an even more complicated situation that results in more deaths.

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Callie is starting to get the hang of being the boss so she gives her family a proper earful but still has a blind spot about her boyfriend Daniel. She does hear the truth about him from a friend but still doesn’t believe it. Seeing the good side of everyone may not be a survival trait for Death.

Callie and her supporting cast are well developed characters who will draw you in to their crazy funny world. The afterlife run as a company? Death living in Newport, Rhode Island with a hell hound puppy who talks?  Benson has created a profoundly insane world, but it is immensely entertaining, with hot characters of both sexes and many strange couples of several persuasions.

It is very tightly plotted and is written as a mystery with no one knowing all the pieces until the end. Without the tight plotting all the groups of characters running around in this volume would be confusing, but Benson manages to run the groups into each other and separate characters off in ways which keep things moving.

As the title of this volume implies, Callie reaches an agreement which will end some of the fighting, but of course different enemies will appear in the future. Both her mom and her sister appear to have found boyfriends so the family drama will now have additional characters. Hopefully we will see more from crazy Calliope in the near future.


Friday quick updates: Big event announcements, The Court of Air, book groups, ConTemporal visits UNC-TV, and more

First, two major event announcements, in brief as we’re still working on the full write-ups for both. But, since beans are spilling left and right:

  • Tuesday, April 23, 7 to 9 pm: Durham’s Atomic Empire (formerly Sci-Fi Genre Comics & Games) hosts a World Book Night / NC Speculative Fiction Night / Bull Spec #8 Launch Party! Confirmed participants include Richard Dansky, Steve Long, Justin Achilli, Jaym Gates, Matthew Ross, and Bull Spec #8 contributors Gwendolyn Clare, Rich Matrunick, Brenda Kalt, Alice Holleman, and Peter Wood and Paul Celmer.
  • Saturday, August 3, 7 to 9 pm: Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books hosts the third annual Bull Spec summer speculative fiction reading, welcoming a selection of Wofford College’s Shared Worlds visiting writers to the area including Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Karen Lord, Will Hindmarch, and Asheville’s Nathan Ballingrud, for an evening of readings, remarks, discussion, and a book signing.

Yeah! Look for bigger/splashier posts about these events very, very soon. Meanwhile, speaking of very soon, this weekend’s and other upcoming events, including a call for volunteers to help promote ConTemporal during an on-air UNC-TV fundraiser:

THE COURT OF AIR: A Steampunk Faerie Tale Party new-sf-reading-group

March 15 (Friday) 6 pm — Wake Forest’s Story Teller Book Store hosts “A Gathering of Authors” including paranormal fantasy author Steve Stone. More info: http://www.storystorewf.com/index.php/Events.html

March 16 (Saturday) 9 pm — Historic downtown Pittsboro’s Davenport & Winkleperry hosts THE COURT OF AIR: A Steampunk Fairy Tale Ball: “Lovers of Fantasy and Faerie come and escape to a land far, far away… Featuring an early performance by THUNDER & SPICE.”

March 17 (Sunday) 5 to 8 pm — Triangle Barcraft hosts a viewing party for Major League Gaming’s Winter Championships, at Blinco’s Sports Restaurant and Bar in Raleigh. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/226967414114684/

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

March 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm to 9 pm — RTSFS book group at the Barnes & Noble at the Streets of Southpoint in Durham, discussing Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. More info for RTSFS Facebook Group members: https://www.facebook.com/events/233813673429260/

March 21 (Thursday) 7:30 pm — Interest meeting for a new monthly sf reading and discussion group, run by Kate Maddalena at Raleigh’s NC Museum of Science, to be held every third Thursday. PDF flier with more info: http://bit.ly/161TWtK

March 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

March 23 (Saturday) 6:15 pm to 11:30 pm — ConTemporal 2013 will be promoted live on UNC-TV as part of taking phone calls for a UNC-TV pledge drive. “We will be taking pledges live on TV from UNC TV viewers. Please come dressed to show off your best Steampunk costuming! Costuming is not required but strongly encouraged. Why: UNC TV will be promoting ConTemporal 2013 live on air as part of this event. We must have a minimum of 20 volunteers to qualify for promotion. Please invite your friends, family and anyone interested in Steampunk and ConTemporal.” Training for volunteers begins promptly at 6:30, at 10 T.W. Alexander Drive in Durham.More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/533874939997393/?ref=3

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

March 29-31 (Friday to Sunday) — Durham’s Atomic Empire (formerly Sci-Fi Genre Comics and Games) hosts a 3-day Magic: Vintage tournament. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/251182025017359/


The Exploding Spaceship Teen Family Reading Edition: Review of The Cadet of Tildor

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Review of The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

The Cadet of Tildor is a new Penguin teen fantasy book which came out January 10, 2013.

This is a teen coming-of-age tale featuring a female military academy cadet named Renee de Winter. She is a nobleman’s daughter who wants to prove her place is with the elite soldiers, she tries her hardest to survive to graduation even when downgraded on her fighting skills.  Will she be one of the two cadets cut at the end of the term?

Renee is a small, quick female warrior who at the beginning of the story tries to use strength and power to overcome opponents, as she did when she and the male cadets were younger and closer to the same size.  Now that they are all almost to adulthood, this tactic does not work. A new instructor makes her see she must adjust to the new size differences with a change in tactics, although at first even though she can execute the moves, she does not see it as a proper way to win because she misunderstands the purpose of the student battles: it is not about physical power but about using your head to win. It takes some time and some maturity gained through some actual combat to get the concept through Renee’s head.  Her relationship with the new instructor is a complex one, and there are hints that, perhaps when there is no longer a student/teacher taboo, things might take a romantic turn.

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The fight sequences are detailed enough to make them believable without appearing over-researched. The different fighters use styles which strongly reflect their personalities, and Renee is shown to be able to read them all well enough to guess her opponent’s tactics in most cases. This should be the case with fighters who have trained frequently for several years together, but many books don’t contain this idea, so kudos to Lidell for well-done training group relationships.

The universe Lidell has depicted has tight constraints on magic because mages are born not made and untrained ones are rather wild and destructive until they can contain their magic.  The requirement that all mages register by the age of thirteen is, however, a point of contention in Tildor and finding unregistered mages who do not fit the destructive image portrayed by the government puts her in a moral quandary.  Should she turn unregistered mages in if they are helping the community, pose no danger and are trying to train others to not be dangerous either?

Lidell used her horseback riding and first aid knowledge to good effect without too much detail to distract readers, but enough that the horses have their own personalities in some cases and that the very injured act appropriately.

For lovers of a good warrior’s tale this is a good read for adults or teens. Some of the physical and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters would certainly make this book an interesting one for group or family discussions. This is an excellent first novel and hopefully we will see more from Alex Lidell.

Content note for parents: This teen book has slavery, torture and fight scenes which might upset a sensitive reader.


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