Coming to Town: Marie Brennan for Voyage of the Basilisk, at Quail Ridge Books and Flyleaf Books, with Mary Robinette Kowal

Fantasy author Marie Brennan is on tour for Voyage of the Basilisk, the third novel in her Memoirs of Lady Trent series which began with the World Fantasy Award nominated A Natural History of Dragons. Once again, she’s touring with fellow fantasy novelist Mary Robinette Kowal, and this time, as Kowal and I hoped at about this time last year in Kowal’s now-yearly return to her Raleigh hometown, Brennan will be joining Kowal for not one but three reading in North Carolina next week: Monday (May 18th) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books, Tuesday (May 19th) at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books, and Wednesday (May 20th) at Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore. Brennan and Kowal have been on tour since May 6, with readings this week at Powell’s in Beaverton (Tuesday, May 12th), Weller’s in Salt Lake City (Thursday, May 14th), The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale (Saturday, May 16th), and Houston’s Murder by the Book (Sunday, May 17th), with the tour concluding at San Francisco’s legendary Borderlands Bookstore on Thursday, May 21st.

As in their previous tours together, Brennan and Kowal have more than the usual readings planned, ranging from puppet shows to Regency costume, and invite fans to come in period costume of their own for both “a small prize” as well as “a great deal of squeeing.” Here via email, Brennan answers some questions about the series, ranging from the meta (what did trilogies ever do to her, that’s she’s avoided them thus far in her career?) to the embarrassing (for the interviewer; indeed, what is it about a book cover with the internal musculature of a dragon that sets my heart a-flutter?) to her quest for anthropological ideas in need of plots. Read on for this and more, though, sadly I neglected to ask the all-important barbecue question. And, really: catch her and Kowal at a reading if you can. Their books are really something not to be missed.


BS: In fantasy, we’re as readers seemingly conditioned for the trilogy. However, this is a form you’ve yet to commit, with a duology, a quartet, and the planned five books in The Memoirs of Lady Trent. What did trilogies ever do to you?

They snubbed me once in high school, so now I’m snubbing them back.

More seriously: I didn’t make a conscious decision to avoid trilogies, though I did notice at one point that I hadn’t written one yet, and that amused me. I’m actually mid-trilogy right now: the Wilders series (Lies and Prophecy and the upcoming Chains and Memory) will be three books long when it’s done. But I think that structure works best for things that are telling a more continuous story, which isn’t true of the Onyx Court series (the quartet) and the Memoirs: both of those have a through-line, but each volume is a stand-alone episode in that larger picture. That means I can choose the number based on other considerations. In the case of the Memoirs, it was “what’s a nice middle range where I can send Isabella to lots of different places, but not run out of scientific things for her to discover?”

BS: One of my weaknesses as a reader has been tending to avoid books which might focus too much on romance. Even after A Natural History of Dragons was named a World Fantasy Award finalist, I put off picking up the series for far too long, only to later kick myself for missing out on the (equal parts?) science travelogue, adventure, and mystery, and yes, some (particularly well done) romance. Do you see the books in any kind of “balancing act” sense, with knife fights, dragon autopsies, politics, and romance as equal players, or is that a gross simplification? Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Ian J. Malone on Red Sky Dawning

Durham author Ian J. Malone‘s 2013 science fiction debut Mako introduced a team of five “thirty-something” friends who become the first-ever group to beat the (fictional, at least for now!) video game “Mako Assault”. Flown to meet the game’s mysterious designer, they learn that the game’s intent was far more than entertainment: the game was designed to train and identify just such a group of human players, desperately needed in an interstellar war. (If you’re thinking of The Last Starfighter you may be on to something.) Two years later Malone returns with Red Sky Dawning, a sequel set five years after the climactic battle of his debut, and here writes about the hardest part in expanding the adventure-scoped story from Mako into a star-spanning web of politics, worlds, and characters. Sort of. You’ll see. Read on!

RSD 800 Promotional

By Ian J. Malone:

Hola gang! Greetings from the Bull City!

On the whole, I’d dare say Red Sky Dawning was a harder book to write than its predecessor, Mako, in nearly every way. Whereas Mako was, at its core, the story of five college friends fleeing their thirty-somethings lives for one last grand adventure, Red Sky Dawning is a true coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an interstellar civil war. There was political intrigue to write, plus tons of new characters, ships, tech, and worlds to introduce — all of which had to be explained and fleshed out while advancing the stories of everything and everyone that came before it in the series’ book one. That’s A LOT of juggling, people. We’re talking Barnum & Bailey, here. So was any of it the “hardest part?”

Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, April 2015: awards coverage, big announcements, new books, and more

From the Other Side, April 2015

By Paul Kincaid

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

So we are back in the middle of the Awards season, starting with the presentation of the BSFA Awards at Eastercon. I wasn’t there, so I can’t give any details except that I didn’t win. So I hereby announce the creation of the Sad Bulls to ensure that the right me wins all awards from now on.

Actually, the winners were: Best Novel – Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie; Best Short Fiction – “The Honey Trap” by Ruth E.J. Booth; Best Non-Fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers in the Great War by Edward James; Best Artwork – The Wasp Factory (After Iain Banks) by Tessa Farmer.


A few days later, and as all the kerfuffle about the Hugo shortlists was getting going, the Arthur C. Clarke Award announced their shortlist. The six books on the list are: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. CareyThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel FaberEurope in Autumn by Dave HutchinsonMemory of Water by Emmi ItärantaThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North; and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.

It’s a shortlist, so we can always quibble about it. I, personally, am disappointed not to see Wolves by Simon Ings on the list. But still, it is the best Clarke Award shortlist for years, and a shortlist that encourages us to talk about the relative merits of the books rather than slates and voter manipulation and all the rest of the miserable fall out from the Hugos. Read the rest of this entry »

April newsletter: SFWA Southeast reading series kicks off April 24; lots of award news including Hugo, Tiptree, Gemmell, and Wellman updates; and! in May: Mary Robinette Kowal and Marie Brennan visit Quail Ridge Books

Vol 5 No 3. Tuesday, April 21, 2015: No, you didn’t miss a newsletter in March; I did. We didn’t have too much going on in terms of readings, and then all of a sudden, every time I thought I was about ready to send out the newsletter, another huge piece of news would roll in, or a new event would come across the wire, and here we are mid-April with all kinds of fantastic things coming right up! Let’s start with what’s on the immediately upcoming EVENTS calendar:

sfwa-southeast-2015-04-08-page001-vertical-logo The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent, #3)

  • April 24 (Friday) 7 pm — The SFWA Southeast Reading Series presents a panel on science fiction and technology with authors Mark Van Name, Mur Lafferty, Richard Dansky, Jay Posey, Justin Achilli, and (via Skype) Tiffany Trent, moderated by M. David Blake, hosted by Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at The Edge, on the first floor of Duke University’s Bostock Library. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. [Facebook]
  • April 25 (Saturday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts the book release party for Samantha Bryant’s “menopausal superhero novel” Going Through the Change.
  • April 25-26 (Saturday and Sunday) — Chapel Hill’s Storybook Farm hosts The 4th Annual Festival of Legends: Spirit Animals. “The Festival of Legends is a celebration of the mythic arts and the magic of life itself. It is a playground for the imagination – for children as well as adults – and an escape from the mundane world. It is a journey to the romantic by-gone eras that never were, and an exploration of the fantastical realms that have always been. The natives are magicians and musicians, acrobats and comedians, artists and crafters, proud knights and fairytale creatures. Step into the Festival of Legends, and step into a place of wonder.”
  • May 15-17 (Friday to Sunday) — Durham Central Park hosts Read Local Book Festival & Exhibitor Fair. “This weekend-long event takes place May 15-17, 2015 and will feature a kick-off Cookbook Rodeo, writing workshops, author dinners, a daytime exhibition in Durham Central Park, children’s activities, local celebrities reading outside their comfort zones, a lightning reading open mic event, and much more. Come celebrate reading local with us!” A buffet of authors dinner with Mur Lafferty, Monica Byrne, James Maxey, and Clay and Susan Griffith is set for May 16th.
  • May 18 (Monday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Mary Robinette Kowal & Marie Brennan – Historical Fantasy Reigns.

Let’s take a closer look at the first and last bullets in that list. On the first, it’s a big deal to be launching the third regional SFWA reading series (after the Pacific Northwest and Southern California series) and Jaym Gates has put together a fantastic panel of authors to kick things off. On the second, any time Kowal comes “home” to Raleigh is cause for excitement, and we’re in for an extra special treat this time as her frequent co-book-tour-partner Brennan is making the trip as well. In between, we’ve got an exciting local book launch, the annual Festival of Legends, and a new local book festival. Not too shabby, eh? Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Piper Kessler on Frequency

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Motorco will screen three seasons of the immensely popular lesbian sci-fi original series Frequency, which features cast, crew, and settings from the Triangle area. Fans will be treated to scenes and storylines from the first three seasons, including unreleased episodes from the current season (three) and exclusive content from the upcoming fourth season. The event will be emceed by Tracey and Matthew Coppedge of The Lowdown Show. Produced by KV Works, Frequency boasts over four and a half million views on YouTube worldwide and was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles Web Series Festival and Miami Web Fest. The series is written by Durham’s Piper Kessler, produced by Monique Velasquez, and stars Meredith Sause (“Foodie”) and Lisa Gagnon (“Disengaged”), along with Tony Hughes, Kat Froelich, and Jenn Evans.

The (free, $5 suggested donation) screening begins at 6:42, although doors open at 6. Q&A, series trivia, and general good times are expected. Cast and crew will be on hand to meet and greet, including Kessler, who here writes about “The Hardest Part” of putting this all together.


By Piper Kessler:

When folks tell you the hardest thing they’ve ever done rarely does it fall under what is truly difficult. I’m sure people would think producing an original sci-fi series with lesbian main characters in a state not known for it’s love of “the gays” is a hard undertaking. Nah. I’ve lived in North Carolina all my life. I’ve heard, well, they’re the good kind of Lesbian, Gay, Black, Mexican Yep, fill in the blank with an other of your choosing. Hard times are given to strangers, not the odd uncle, sister and beer drinking buddy. Cause my buddy? Well, he’s different. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, March 2015: remembering Terry Pratchett, covering The Kitschies, and new books from Kazuo Ishiguro, Tom McCarthy, Antonia Honeywell, Paul McAuley, and not Adam Roberts

From the Other Side, March 2015
By Paul Kincaid

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

So the embuggeration won. We always knew it would, but even so … The first thing Terry Pratchett ever said to me was “Sorry.” I’d been organising the programme for a science fiction convention, and a publisher I’d never heard of contacted me to ask if we could invite one of his brand new authors as a guest. We didn’t know the author and our budget for guests was already allocated; so I said no. Terry Pratchett turned up anyway, and sought me out to apologise. If he’d known what his publisher was trying to do, he’d have stopped him. If we’d known what Terry Pratchett was going to become, we’d have said yes.


The last time I talked to him was probably at the 1999 Worldcon in Melbourne. Late one night my wife and I were crossing the lobby when Terry hailed us. He was conventioned out, needed a break, could we sit and talk? Of course, we found a nice quiet corner of the lobby and sat and talked for maybe half an hour about nothing in particular, shared anecdotes, memories, that sort of thing. Then a fan noticed him and began to hover and Terry became the professional once more. One of the things all the obituaries agree on: he was a very nice man. He never forgot how much he owed to his readers and fans, and he never failed to give them full measure. It was always a pleasure to spend time with him. He died, it is reported, with a cat curled up asleep beside him. That seems right.

And after that, the normal business of March seems somewhat lacking. Read the rest of this entry »

The Local Scene: Donna Glee Williams

[Editor’s Note: New column The Local Scene will introduce some of North Carolina’s fantastic roster of authors and their books, monthly on first Thursdays.]

North Carolina author Donna Glee Williams was born in Mexico, the “daughter of a Kentucky farm-girl and a Texas Aggie large-animal veterinarian.” Having grown up “mostly” in Maryland, she lives in “the hills” of North Carolina, adding that “the place I lived the longest and still call home is New Orleans.” By day she leads seminars on a variety of topics, with past jobs as a member of a schooner crew, a librarian, an environmental activist, a registered nurse, a teacher, and “a long stint as a professional student.”

She is incredibly widely published in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, in print publications ranging from Bluegrass Unlimited to Inside Kung-Fu and still more online publications and journals, which you can sample from her links page. Her first speculative fiction short story “Limits” was published in Strange Horizons in 2007, and received an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction for that year; in late 2011 it became the first of two of her stories to be published in audio by PodCastle, followed in August 2012 by “The Circle Harp“. (A short flash horror piece, “Dancing”, followed two weeks later in Pseudopod.)

DonnaGlee blue shirt 

In March 2014, Canadian publisher EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy published her first novel, The Braided Pathalso available in Kindle and Kobo ebook formats. The Braided Path grew out of “Limits” and continues the same characters and worlds as the short story, which according to Williams “owed a lot to the feather-editing of Jed Hartman at Strange Horizons”. It presents an allegorical secondary-world fantasy that to me can be described as standing somewhere in the midpoint of an imaginary line between Catherine M. Wilson’s When Women Were Warriors and Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria, perhaps with a dash of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman or even more of Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden as well. Williams’ world is clearly not our own, centered on a pre-modern society of connected villages of rope-makers and other crafters, of storytelling and dreaming, set on a single path leading up- and down-slope. According to Williams, “The craft society of The Braided Path owes a lot to the time I’ve spent hanging out in villages in Spain, Italy, Israel, Turkey, India, and Pakistan,” adding in her acknowledgements in the book that “this tale was born on a long, sweaty, uphill walk one July” in the hills of North Georgia.

The Braided Path is also centered on a young widow, Len Rope-Maker, and two youths, Cam (her son) and Fox (his sweetheart), struggling to find their place and (if any) limitations, one drawn upslope and the other downslope to the sea. While a fantasy novel, their journeys are not beset on all sides by mythological or magical foes. As Williams describes it: “There are no vampires, zombies, werewolves, princes, swords, dragons, wizards, or any magic at all, really.” Instead, Cam and Fox must face the more ambiguous pulls of up and down, away from each other, while there is no denying the connection that also binds — or braids — them together. It’s a poignant story, and lyrically written, sentimental at times but not overly so. We were all young once, wondering about our own futures, in worlds of endless possibilities and directions. Even given a shared avocation of “Far-Walker”, there is still the choice of up or down, of leaving behind or staying in place, of binding or simply connecting, tethered in heart rather than to one physical place.

Williams’ next novel, Dreamers, is, like The Braided Path, “set in a world that isn’t this one, a desert land where policy is guided by the dreams of one isolated girl who is revered like a priestess but treated like a prisoner.  The story follows her journey towards finding her full and independent true Self.”


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