2014 East Coast Game Conference, Day 1

April 23, 2014, Durham, NC: Thanks to a generous last-minute press pass, I had a chance to stop by day one of ECGC – the East Coast Game Conference – this morning at the Raleigh Convention Center. I’ve been to a half-dozen? conventions of various kinds (science fiction, health and fitness, anime, etc.) at this venue and each has taken advantage of the space in different ways. Here, the ECGC is well-laid-out, with branding stickers on the (many!) glass-surfaced entrances into the convention space and plenty of room and people to handle registration without fuss or backups.

IMG_6789 IMG_6790

After registering I headed straight for the Expo, which starts as an in-hallway affair before expanding into the Expo Hall Proper. Here, schools pitch their programs and specialties and game companies pitch both their projects and open positions as well as their engines and platforms. In the hall, the two which most caught my eye — though “swag of the day” goes to the Magic 8-ball from Insomniac Games — were Wake Tech’s Simulation and Game Development program as well as a “Goat Simulator” game showcasing Epic Games‘ Unreal Engine. Getting hands-on with the goat simulator, I was encouraged to perform a backflip, but instead got carried away with running my goat forward for a hard stop to force a pretty nice “skid stop” animation; this eventually led to darting my goat out of an alley and into a street just in time to be killed and thump-thump-thump run-over by a very large truck. (I think I earned some bonus points, somehow, for this spectacular method of demise.) Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Ann VanderMeer for The Time Traveler’s Almanac at Flyleaf Books on Monday April 21 at 7 pm

Multiple award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer has been a frequent visitor to the Carolinas, both as an instructor at the SharedWorlds teen summer writing camp at Wofford College and multiple events both at Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore and in the Triangle. In her 3rd appearance in the Triangle in the past 4 years, she will be at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books on Monday, April 21, as part of a tour for The Time Traveler’s Almanac, a definitive, nearly 1000 page anthology of time travel stories. The tour continues on Wednesday, April 23 at Lexington’s Joseph-Beth Booksellers and on Thursday, April 24 at Malaprop’s. VanderMeer took the time to talk about anthologies, editing for Tor.com, teaching, and why she keeps coming back to the Carolinas.


The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer (Tor Books)

Your reprint anthologies have taken quite a shift in size: after The New Weird and three moderate-sized Steampunk anthologies, both The Weird and The Time Traveler’s Almanac push (or in the case of The Weird) exceed 1000 pages — and come from larger publishers. Did the scope of the project necessitate finding a bigger publisher, or did having the support of a larger publisher allow for the scope?

Each of these projects was different in theme, scope, approach and philosophy.  With both The Weird and The Time Traveler’s Almanac, the goal was to provide as inclusive as possible an overview of over 100 years of fiction in those select areas.  The New Weird was designed to capture a moment in time and illustrate through the fiction and non-fiction selections just what this literary movement was all about; from its precursors to current examples.  And each of the three Steampunk anthologies focused on different goals yet again; starting off with the early days in the first, the modern development across the globe in the second and then, with the third in the series, seeing Steampunk fiction as a revolutionary act.

You’ve been asked about your (many!) favorites from The Time Traveler’s Almanac, but I wonder about some of the stories that you couldn’t quite fit into the book — whether they were too similar to other stories, or cases where reprint rights couldn’t be managed. Do any stories stick out from that perspective? Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Quick Updates: Elizabeth Langston, Chris Giarrusso, Atomic Comedy, Powerful Women in YA Lit, Mary Roach, and more

Saturday, April 12, 2014: Yeah, it’s Saturday, but I didn’t get these out yesterday and there’s a big weekend ahead. Er. Upon us.

First up, covering Saturday means 3 events to tell you about:

  • 10:30 am to 4 pm — Ultimate Comics hosts G-Man & Mini-Marvel Creator Chris Giarrusso for a signing of epic proportions! There will be FREE food, drinks, LIVE ART, and plenty of good times! This will be be a fun, all-ages event, so bring the whole family and don’t forget to ask for a FREE SKETCH! If the weather is nice we will break out the grill and cook up some hotdogs!”
  • 3 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Elizabeth Langston – ‘A Whisper in Time’.
  • 9 pm — Durham’s Atomic Empire hosts “Atomic Comedy” in a regular geeky comedy series. Show starts at 9:30 pm.

And! Tomorrow (Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!) at 2 pm, Flyleaf Books hosts Girl Power!: A Panel on Powerful Women in Young Adult Literature featuring Jessica Spotswood, Nathan Kotecki, Meagan Spooner, and Alexandra Duncan.

In other local writerly news, Raleigh author Betty Cross is a regular at area conventions, and her new novel Mistress of Land and Sea has just been released by Double Dragon eBooks. It’s a “YA epic fantasy” and is her third novel.



12 (Saturday) — 10:30 am to 4 pm — Ultimate Comics hosts G-Man & Mini-Marvel Creator Chris Giarrusso for a signing of epic proportions! There will be FREE food, drinks, LIVE ART, and plenty of good times! This will be be a fun, all-ages event, so bring the whole family and don’t forget to ask for a FREE SKETCH! If the weather is nice we will break out the grill and cook up some hotdogs!”

12 (Saturday) 3 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Elizabeth Langston – ‘A Whisper in Time’.

12 (Saturday) 9 pm — Durham’s Atomic Empire hosts “Atomic Comedy” in a regular geeky comedy series. Show starts at 9:30 pm.

13 (Sunday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Girl Power!: A Panel on Powerful Women in Young Adult Literature featuring Jessica Spotswood, Nathan Kotecki, Meagan Spooner, and Alexandra Duncan.

13 (Sunday) 7 to 9 pm — As part of the NC Science Festival, best-selling non-fiction author Mary Roach will be in conversation with Frank Stasio at The Carolina Theatre of Durham.

15 (Tuesday) 7 pm — RTSFS book group discusses Jo Walton’s Among Others at the Southpoint B&N. More info: http://www.rtsfs.com/

15 (Tuesday) 7:30 pm — The Carrack Modern Art (111 W Parrish St, Durham) hosts “a night of readings featuring kathryn l. pringle, Brian Howe, Scott Daughtridge, and Gina Myers.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/828808007132930/

17 (Thursday) 6:30 pm — Launch party at downtown Durham pub 106 Main for Eryk Pruitt’s southern-fried neo-noir crime novel Dirtbags. “We’ll have copies to sell, or you can bring your own for a signature. Mike is slinging $3 well drinks all night long. Invite all your friends, bring some plus-ones or plus-twos. Let’s pack this place out and have a good time.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/282781161888049/

17 (Thursday) 7 pm — The Barnes & Noble of Brier Creek hosts Mur Lafferty for a signing of Ghost Train to New Orleans. More info: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/83303

19 (Saturday) 8 pm until late — The Clockwork Ball: A Steampunk Party at the Haw River Ballroom, hosted by The Davenport Sisters. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1388306014723527/?ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited&source=1

NEW: 21 (Monday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer for a discussion of her just-released anthology The Time Traveler’s Almanac. More info: http://flyleafbooks.com/event/2014/04/21/day

NEW: 23-24 (Wed-Thu) — ECGC — East Coast Game Conference — at the Raleigh Convention Center, with keynote speakers Mary DeMarle (Eidos) and Ken Rolston (The Elder Scrolls) and narrative track panelists Will Hindmarch, Mur Lafferty, and more. More info: http://www.ecgconf.com/

NEW-NEW: 24 (Thu) 7:30 pm — Author Teju Cole to give the Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University, with the title “Here Comes Everybody: The Crisis of Equality in the Age of Social Media”. Held at the Schiciano Auditorium at the Fitzpatrick Center with a reception to follow. More info: http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/blog/kenan-distinguished-lecture-with-teju-cole-apr-24/

[for full events listings see the most recent newsletter]

Coming to Town: Alexandra Duncan for Salvage, as part of Sunday’s panel on powerful women in YA literature at Flyleaf Books

A week ago, Asheville author Alexandra Duncan contributed a “Hardest Part” guest post. Now she’s back as a “Coming to Town” interviewee ahead of her appearance this Sunday at 2 pm as part of Flyleaf Books’ Girl Power!: A Panel on Powerful Women in Young Adult Literature featuring Jessica Spotswood, Nathan Kotecki, Meagan Spooner, and Alexandra Duncan. We talked briefly about, well, the obvious: powerful women in YA lit, how the event was put together, and her just-released debut novel Salvage.


When you think of “Powerful Women in Young Adult Literature” who are the characters and authors who come to mind?

I definitely think of Kristin Cashore’s characters in GracelingFire, and Bitterblue. Katsa, from Graceling, seems like an obvious answer, since she’s a trained fighter, but I think all of her primary female characters are excellent examples of different types of strength. I also think of the Robin McKinley’s Aerin and Harry in The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword.

Who came up with the panel idea and how did you get involved?

Fellow Y.A. author Megan Spooner invited me to join the panel, which she organized with Nathan Kotecki and Jessica Spotswood. They were interested in having a librarian on the panel, and since I’m both a librarian and author, I was happy to join in.

Your novel Salvage certainly features a “powerful woman in YA literature”. What has the early response to her story been?

The responses that have moved me the most have been the ones where readers said they felt like the book was written just for them. I can’t imagine a better compliment.

I know Malaprop’s is a fantastic bookstore for events, but do you ever come to the Triangle area for readings or conventions?

I’m always looking for a good excuse to come to the Triangle area. I’ll be in Chapel Hill this Sunday, April 13 at 2 p.m. at Flyleaf Books for the Girl Power! Panel. I hope I have a chance to come back soon.

Any other events coming up?

I’ll be doing a Goodreads Q&A from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 14th, and I’ll be at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC at 6:30 p.m. May 31st for a reading. You can check the events page on my web site for information about future events.


If you’re so inclined, you can help spread the word about the event in any number of ways, including via this Facebook event.

The Hardest Part: Megan Miranda on Vengeance

Charlotte-area author Megan Miranda‘s 2012 debut novel Fracture introduced readers to teens Delaney Maxwell and Decker Phillips, the frozen waters of Falcon Lake, and a supernatural mystery both of Delaney’s recovery from brain damage and her inexplicable ability to predict — or perhaps cause? — the imminent death of those around her. Written from Delaney’s point of view, Fracture garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly among a long list of other accolades, and she next published Hysteria, a standalone psychological thriller. With her latest book, Vengeance, Miranda returns to Falcon Lake, this time from Decker’s point of view. Here, Miranda writes about the difficulties in picking up where Fracture left off.

 Vengeance (Fracture, #2)

By Megan Miranda:

As a general rule, I find the middle third of every book the hardest part to write. The excitement of a new idea gets me through the first third, and the promise of seeing the end usually powers me through the last third—but that middle third, man, I usually have to force my way through it. But at least I’m aware of this pattern. I’ve come to expect it, even. Read the rest of this entry »

April Newsletter: NC Literary Festival tonight (w/ Lev Grossman) through this weekend; Ann VanderMeer brings time travel to Flyleaf Books on April 21; so many new books; and (in May) Christopher Moore and Mary Robinette Kowal

Vol 4. No 4. April 3, 2014:

April is here, and, finally, so is Spring — hopefully to stay this time. March was quite a month, with a large helping of new books and several fantastic events, and April is off to a cracking start with a full handful of more new books and another round of can’t-miss events, starting today, Thursday April 3, with Lev Grossman at the North Carolina Literary Festival at 7:30 pm, reading at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library Auditorium at NC State’s Centennial Campus, and continuing all weekend including Junot Diaz (Friday, 7 pm), Karen Joy Fowler and R.L. Stine in a special Monti storytelling event (Friday, 8 pm), Karen Joy Fowler and Therese Anne Fowler (Saturday, 11:30 am), Nathan Ballingrud, R.L. Stine, and Peter Straub (Saturday, 12:30 pm), John Kessel and Peter Straub (Saturday, 3:30 pm), a “Literary Fantastic” panel (Sunday, 2 pm, with Kessel, Ballingrud, Dale Bailey, and Richard Butner), and many and much more for readers of all ages.

There are some new events coming up as well, including: Flyleaf Books hosting Ann VanderMeer on Monday, April 21; Quail Ridge Books hosting Mary Robinette Kowal on Monday, May 12; book launches from local authors Jen McConnel, Jay Posey, and Monica Byrne; and too many more to list up here, so do check out the complete listings below.

Speaking of new books, something is absolutely in the air (and likely water) here, as March and April are absolutely packed with NC-authored science fiction and fantasy. How many? Here’s March: Mur Lafferty’s Ghost Train to New Orleans; Jenna Black’s ResistanceJen McConnel’s Daughter of Chaos; Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts; and Scott Nicholson’s After: Milepost 291.


And already out in April? Asheville author Alexandra Duncan’s debut novel Salvage; Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin’s Reign of Ash; and the essay anthology Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction co-edited by (ex-Durham, sadly) Gerry Canavan. In addition to new books, there are plenty of new editions as well, from a newly-announced special limited definitive edition of Lewis Shiner’s Glimpses from Subterranean Press, to ReAnimus Press editions of Allen L. Wold’s backlist, to a mass market paperback edition of Tony Daniel and David Drake’s The Heretic in Drake’s “Raj Whitehall/The General” series. And speaking of Tony Daniel, his radioplay adaptation of Eric Flint’s novella “Islands” is set to be recorded this weekend, with a fantastic cast, if I do say so myself.

Glimpses Signed Limited Edition (preorder) cover  Islands Poster

It’s also been a near-banner month for new web content at bullspec.com ranging from reviews to interviews and guest columns and more: The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition (a day late in US and a day early in the UK): Reviews of Emilie and the Sky World and the 57 Lives of Alex WayfareComing to Town: Kim Harrison for The Undead Pool, interviewed by Sharon Stogner; The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Some Recent Good Urban Fantasy Reads: The Cormorant, Black Arts and Ghost Train to New OrleansThe Exloding Spaceship Reviews Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi and The Eidolon by Libby McGuganThe Hardest Part: Mur Lafferty on Ghost Train to New OrleansLocal book release: Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnelPaul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, March 2014: The Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, Diana Wynne Jones’ The Islands of Chaldea, Ken MacLeod’s Descent, and Nick Mamatas’ The Last Weekend; and The Hardest Part: Alexandra Duncan on Salvage.

Lastly, while we celebrate the future of reading at the NC Literary Festival this weekend, the NC Science Festival is also ongoing through April 13. Signature events (among hundreds of talks and hands-on science exhibitions!) include: Thursday, April 3, Neil deGrasse Tyson at NCSU’s Hunt Library Auditorium; Wednesday April 9, ESPN’s Sports Science Host John Brenkus at UNC’s Memorial Hall; and Sunday April 13, Mary Roach at The Carolina Theatre of Durham. It’s a fun time to be in NC!





Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Alexandra Duncan on Salvage

I first heard about Asheville, NC author Alexandra Duncan back in 2011, when her novella “Rampion” (published in F&SF) starting generating a lot of buzz — it would go on to be selected by Rich Horton to appear in his annual “Year’s Best” anthology for Prime Books. Reading “Rampion”, a fairytale-infused historical fiction set in the Caliphate of Al-Andalus, I started following her writing, but… it appears she had something longer in mind, for which some serious waiting would be required. Luckily, I had her previous short fiction — published in F&SF since 2009 — to keep me company. Yesterday, her debut novel Salvage was released in hardcover and ebook [Kindle] by HarperCollins’ Greenwillow Books, as well as a highly-anticipated audiobook edition from Harper Audio. A YA title, it targets a younger audience than has her heady short fiction, but by no means without a literary sf sensibility, bearing themes of feminism and climate change. Duncan also sets her sights on the extra-terrestrial rather than the lush fantasies of her short fiction. But it wasn’t the change of age, or venue, or theme, which gave her the most difficulty. Here, as Duncan writes, sometimes life itself, our own neuro-chemical minds and bodies, can be our own worst enemy.

By Alexandra Duncan:

There are very few careers where you can make having an anxiety disorder work to your advantage. For a long time, I thought writing was one of those few.

When I started writing my first novel, Salvage, I had several short stories and a novella under my belt. I thought I knew what worked best for me as far as a motivation. Write every day. Feel uneasy and wrong if you don’t write – like you left the oven on – so make sure you write every day. Let your characters and plot take over your thoughts until the story is as perfect as you can make it. Send it off into the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, March 2014: The Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, Diana Wynne Jones’ The Islands of Chaldea, Ken MacLeod’s Descent, and Nick Mamatas’ The Last Weekend

From the Other Side: March 2014

By Paul Kincaid

Why is it that every time I go to a science fiction party it turns out to be in a cellar bar with a low ceiling and loud music, so I spend all of my time trying to make out what the person I’m talking to has actually said? That’s exactly what happened at the party to announce the shortlist for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award. So I think I heard Ian Waites of NewCon Press tell me that the collection of non-fiction by Adam Roberts, for which I have written the introduction, will be one of four titles he is launching at Loncon 3. Or it could be one of three titles he is launching at Eastercon next month. Or he could have been saying something else entirely.

At least the music was turned off for the announcements. The evening began with a series of people announcing science fiction events happening in the UK over the course of the year. The Worldcon is, of course, the big event, but we were told about an awful lot of other things happening around that. The SciFi London Film Festival is bigger than ever, with a challenge to make an sf film in two days. And the BFI (British Film Institute) is planning a major season of science fiction film later in the year.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) The Adjacent

As for the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, that seems to have been far better received than either of the last couple of years. As always, no-one was able to predict the list, even if it was less eccentric than some have been. There was some surprise at the inclusion of the Philip Mann and Ramez Naam, and maybe a little muttering at the omission of Paul McAuley’s Evening’s Empires and Marcel Theroux’s Strange Bodies (both of which strike me as being eminently Clarke-worthy novels), but in general it’s a strong list. As for the eventual winner (due to be announced at the beginning of May), I have a sense it could be between the Ann Leckie and the Christopher Priest; but Clarke Award juries have a long tradition of blindsiding us all.

One final note, while we’re on the subject of awards: the deadline for Hugo Award nominations is 31st March, so if you want to see your favourites on the ballot, it’s time to act.

As for the new books of the month, the most pleasing is probably The Islands of Chaldea from HarperCollins. It was left unfinished by Diana Wynne Jones when she died in 2011, but now it has been completed by her sister, Ursula Jones, and for anyone who has read anything by Diana Wynne Jones the chance to read just one more magical novel has to be recommendation enough. It has all the hallmarks of her best work, the invention, the humour, the warmth and the wisdom, so I probably don’t need to add that it’s the story of a girl whose magical powers refuse to come, until she has to take part in a seemingly impossible expedition. But really: it’s Diana Wynne Jones, nothing else needs to be said.

The Islands of Chaldea 20060020

The biggest book of the month has to be Descent by Ken MacLeod (Orbit). Like his previous novel, the Clarke-shortlisted Intrusion, it’s a near-future political novel about the intrusion of shadowy authority figures into ordinary life. This time it starts with what seems to be an encounter with a UFO, but it soon becomes more about issues of belief and control. It has to be said that I don’t think this is anywhere near as good as Intrusion, but as is typical of Ken MacLeod it is a gripping story that forces you to think about some very complex issues.

The Last Weekend

And something of an oddity. Unless I am very much mistaken, to date none of Nick Mamatas’s books have received British publication; certainly, I’ve only ever seen them from American imprints. But now, PS Publishing has brought out The Last Weekend, and so far as I can see there is no American edition. It’s a novel that starts with a zombie apocalypse, then throws in all sorts of conspiracies, as the blurb says: ‘sparing no cliché about tortured artists, alcoholic ‘genius’, noir action heroes, survivalist dogma, or starry-eyed California dreaming’. It’ll be interesting to see how the UK responds to this full-on assault of bleak comedy.

While I’m on the subject of books, I suppose I should mention that my own new collection of reviews, Call And Response (Beccon), will be available by Easter. There’s a chance I may mention this again next month.


British sf critic Paul Kincaid is the author of What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction. He has won both the Thomas D. Clareson Award and the BSFA Non-Fiction Award. A new collection of reviews, Call And Response (Beccon) will be available by Easter. [Editor's note: This happens to be the 200th blog post at bullspec.com. Happy it has Paul, Nick, and Diana Wynne Jones in it.]

PK in London

photo credit: Maureen Kincaid Speller

Local book release: Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel

I’ve had the pleasure of publishing Durham author Jen McConnel‘s poem “Enchantment” way back in Issue #4 (hat tip as always to poetry editor Dan Campbell) and in watching her career grow and bloom in the years since and let me tell you, she’s currently on quite the upswing. Her September 2012 “New Adult” novel The Burning of Isobel Key was republished as The Secret of Isobel Key in December by Bloomsbury Spark (and produced in audio by Audible for Bloomsbury), and today she starts a new series with Daughter of Chaos (Red Magic, #1)  from Raleigh-based Month9Books [IndieBound | Kobo | Kindle]. Once again McConnel sets her sights on the young adult / new adult reader, this time with a contemporary Durham-set story of witches and choices:

“There comes a time in every witch’s life when she must choose her path. Darlena’s friends have already chosen, so why is it so hard for her to make up her mind? Now, Darlena is out of time. Under pressure from Hecate, the queen of all witches, Darlena makes a rash decision to choose Red magic, a path no witch in her right mind would dare take. As a Red witch, she will be responsible for chaos and mayhem, drawing her deep into darkness. Will the power of Red magic prove too much for Darlena, or will she learn to control it before it’s too late?”

One thing I like about the opening of this book is that there’s no time spent explaining, “hey, my name is Darlena, and I’m a witch, and we have alchemy classes” — we just see her grade on her recent alchemy test and since we can fill in so much by simple inference, McConnel lets us do that work without spelling it out for us. That’s something I appreciate in a book, particularly one written for teens.

So! Congratulations to McConnel on the publication of her latest book. You can join in on some of the fun via her virtual launch Facebook event and catch her at The Regulator Bookshop on Wednesday, April 30th. (Note: this had been scheduled for April 9th.)


Beautiful Curse, McConnel’s contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, is due out in December from Swoon Romance.

Monday Musings: N.K. Jemisin in Statesville this weekend, and Lev Grossman and Junot Diaz kick of the NC Literary Festival next week!

Monday, March 24, 2014: Via regular contributors The Exploding Spaceship comes news that Statesville, NC’s Mitchell Community College will host award-winning author N.K. Jemisin this weekend (Friday March 28 and Saturday March 29) as part of the 2014 Doris Betts Spring Writers Festival. There are author readings, (free!) writing workshops, and more. If you’re in the Piedmont area, check it out!

Meanwhile, here in the Triangle we’re getting very ready and very excited about next week’s North Carolina Literary Festival, kicking off with featured readings by Lev Grossman (Thursday, April 3, 7:30 pm) and Junot Diaz (Friday, April 4, 7 pm) ahead of a weekend packed with panelists such as Peter Straub, Karen Joy Fowler, John Kessel, R.L. Stine, and many, many more, all free — though some events, like the Junot Diaz reading, require free pre-registration.

More? Here’s the latest handout flyer [handout-2014-03-20.pdf] of upcoming events, including the just-announced Flyleaf Books event with Ann VanderMeer, set for April 21. As always, check the latest newsletter for the most comprehensive listings of events and book releases!



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