The Hardest Part: William Shunn on The Accidental Terrorist

In early 2009 when I started taking reading and writing seriously again, one of the first authors I “discovered” was William Shunn, whose Proper Manuscript Format for Fiction Writers is practically required reading, and who, along with his fellow Blue Heaven workshop/retreat authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Greg van Eekhout were active — and welcoming! — on Twitter, even to those writing umbrella duel fan-fiction inspired by their Electric Velocipede stories. Van Eekhout’s Norse Code had yet to be released that summer, Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl was still months away from publication that fall, and watching Shunn banter with and encourage them was certainly a great model for a Twitter and genre newbie such as myself. Shunn’s own book that winter was Cast a Cold Eye (with Derryl Murphy), but it is his 2007 Nebula and Hugo Award finalist novella Inclination which I think is the best corresponding genre reading to bring along for his new memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary.


In Inclination, we follow a young, first person protagonist’s emergence from the protective shell of his religious upbringing into the wider world of a space station, populated with all manner of interesting characters, and on through his growth in awareness of what exactly he has been sheltered from, and finally on to a satisfying conclusion. Even the “tip of the iceberg” knowledge that Shunn was raised Mormon and had since left the LDS Church makes the comparisons to his real life experience easy; anyone (like me, for instance) who was raised in a conservative religious family and later had to resolve the conflict between spirituality and reality, whether leaving their faith or affirming it, can at least find in Shunn’s novella the essence of that struggle, of that question. Read the rest of this entry »

November newsletter: Kelly Link, Bill Nye, and The Wheel of Time Companion; publishing news; Bull Spec Turns Six; and more

Vol 5 No 8. Wednesday, November 18, 2015: It’s been a fantastic fall for events already, with HonorCon in Raleigh and Welcome to Night Vale in Chapel Hill, readings from Julia Elliott, A.G. Riddle, and Clay and Susan Griffith, and James Maxey continues to be a fantastic ambassador for all things speculative fiction in his many appearances as Piedmont Laureate.

And even coming off a fantastic weekend with both a star-studded NC Comicon and an absolutely fantastic event with Adam Christopher and Mur Lafferty in conversation, there’s plenty still to come this month even before next weekend is over, as the Triangle will host Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, and Locus Award winning author Kelly Link (NC State, Wednesday November 18, 7:30 pm), scientist Bill Nye (McIntyre’s Books, Friday November 20, 6:30 pm), and The Wheel of Time Companion tour with editor Harriet McDougal (Quail Ridge Books, Saturday November 21, 4 pm). Not a bad week ahead, eh?

  November 21 (Saturday) 4 pm -- Quail Ridge Books hosts an epic The Wheel of Time Companion event, with editor Harriet McDougal and editorial assistants Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk.

Then things do get a bit quieter, though I do have one December reading on my own must-see calendar — Durham’s Atomic Empire is hosting Okla Elliott and Raul Clement, co-authors of The Doors You Mark Are Your Own, on December 22 — and November also has a few events for kids (Lucy Rozier’s Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph) and teens (Leon Capetanos’ The Time Box), as well as a few intriguing looking stage productions (Peter and the Starcatcher put on by the PlayMakers Repertory Company, and Jesse Knight’s Eurydice Descended at the Cordoba Center for the Arts, which is funding via Indiegogo through tonight). Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Adam Christopher for Made to Kill at Flyleaf Books, interviewed by Mur Lafferty

New Zealand-born British novelist Adam Christopher (Empire StateThe Burning DarkSeven Wonders, and Hang Wire) is making a rare US appearance at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books this Saturday [Facebook] to read from his forthcoming novel Made to Kill, which begins his new “L.A. Trilogy” from Tor Books: “Set in Hollywood 1965, Made to Kill is very much a noir mystery, except that the detective is a robot (with a heart of gold) and his Gal Friday is a supercomputer with a Lucille Bluth sensibility. The novel was born out of short story written for called “Brisk Money” whereby the author imagines an undiscovered sci-fi novel written by Raymond Chandler.” Joining Christopher in conversation will be Durham author Mur Lafferty, who also took the time to ask Christopher a few questions about juggling genres and projects. Do note the start time for Saturday’s event is 6 pm as opposed to the usual 7 pm, and! There will be wine and snacks, and with both Lafferty and Christopher, it’s sure to be an entertaining time. I’ll see you there! And do check out the fantastic book trailer over at, and if you’re reading this from further afield, you might want to check out  the official L.A. Trilogy website for the other remaining events on his tour.

Adam Christopher Banner(1)

— Interview by Mur Lafferty —

Q: Your work is heavily entrenched with American Noir elements. How long have you been a fan of the genre, and what made you want to write your own twist?

I love mystery and crime fiction, and in particular the hardboiled and noir varieties. I’m a huge fan of Raymond Chandler in particular, and I knew that he wasn’t too keen on sci-fi – but at the same time, I thought that a Raymond Chander SF novel would be really interesting. My editor kinda challenged me to write it, and that became the novelette “Brisk Money”, and from that, I suddenly found myself with a whole trilogy of books about a robot detective who is really a robot hit man. This kind of genre mash-up is a lot of fun to write!

Q: You’ve had a very busy year, with novels, tie-ins, and comic books. How do you structure your schedule to handle these projects, and how do you keep so many stories straight in your head? Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, October 2015: British Fantasy Awards, David Mitchell’s Slade House, Hal Duncan’s Testament, Julia Knight’s Swords and Scoundrels, and more

From the Other Side, October 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.]

Good grief, it can’t be award season again already, can it? Apparently, it can. Or at least, we have had this year’s British Fantasy Convention, and with the convention come the British Fantasy Awards. An interesting selection this year, not least because there are so many women among the winners. These include the Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy novel, which went to Frances Hardinge for Cuckoo Song (is that the first YA novel to win the Best Fantasy award?), the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer went to Sarah Lotz for The Three, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award went to Juliet E. McKenna. There’s a full list 0f winners here.


And since it’s Halloween, let’s keep in the mood with the best haunted house novel of the year, which is, of course, Slade House by David Mitchell. It’s a sort of pendant to last year’s The Bone Clocks – very “sort of” – with more stuff about immortality, and one of the key figures from last year’s novel reappearing at the climax of this one. But here he recasts the story as horror, with a particularly creepy brother and sister tempting their victims to a weird and wonderful house that no longer exists. Being Mitchell, of course, he tells the story in a variety of different voices, the first of which is one of the funniest things he has written, until it starts to turn nasty. Apparently, Slade House began life on Twitter, so if you follow Mitchell you’ve probably encountered bits of the novel before in 140-character slabs, not that you’d notice from the finished thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Marko Kloos, author of the Frontlines series, for HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown

Marko Kloos is the author of the Frontlines series of military science fiction. Born and raised in Germany, Kloos has has been a soldier, a bookseller, a freight dock worker, a tech support drone, and a corporate IT administrator. A graduate of the Viable Paradise SF/F Writers’ Workshop, he now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. Their compound, Castle Frostbite, is patrolled by a roving pack of dachshunds, colorfully illustrated as “a team of awesome space-merc dachshund outlaw heroes blasting their way across the sky” in the header image on his website.

The Frontlines series is set in the early 22nd century, where North American Commonwealth “welfare rat” Andrew Grayson enlists in the military “for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth.” (The only other remotely plausible way out is by drawing a winning lottery ticket for a colony ship settling off-world, and that’s as remote as any lottery-winning dream can be.) We get to see both this all-too-plausible and too-near future Earth of grim poverty and ever-escalating action and space battles through Grayson’s eyes as he encounters the wonders and horrors of a Solar System-spanning conflict with the alien Lankies.

Kloos joins a fantastic lineup of military science fiction — including Taylor Anderson, David Weber, A.G. Riddle, David Drake, Tony Daniel, and Chris Kennedy — at this weekend’s HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, with individual day and full weekend passes still available. It’s a further escalation of HonorCon’s roots as a convention focused almost entirely on Weber’s Honorverse — complete with many attendees in full Royal Manticoran Navy uniform — into a truly full-spectrum military science fiction convention. (Though, still, certainly, with the RMN out in full regalia in full force!) I’m looking forward to catching as much of it as I can.

While Kloos was already getting rave reviews (and comparisons to Scalzi, Haldeman, and Heinlein) for his first two Frontlines novels, Terms of Enlistment (initially self-published, then quickly snapped up and republished by Amazon’s 47North) and Lines of Departure, it’s fair to say that his stature in the science fiction world was raised both by his Hugo Award nomination and by the grace and clarity with which he declined the honor. That’s one of the several topics in the following interview, conducted via email ahead of (just barely!) today’s “boarding action” and other first day festivities at HonorCon. Enjoy!


Q: Are you familiar with David Weber’s Honorverse series, around which HonorCon has grown? Or Weber’s other ongoing SF series, Safehold?

I’ve been a fan of the Honorverse books since On Basilisk Station, so yeah, you can say I’m familiar with it. ;) One of my friends clued me in on the Honor Harrington books three or four novels into the series, a good while before I decided to get serious with my own writing. I have not however read any of the Safehold stuff yet.

Q: How did you get involved with this year’s HonorCon? Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Taylor Anderson, author of The Destroyermen series, for HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown

Texas author Taylor Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Destroyermen series. A gunmaker and forensic ballistic archaeologist, Taylor has been a technical and dialogue consultant for movies and documentaries, and an award-winning member of the National Historical Honor Society and of the United States Field Artillery Association. He has a master’s degree in history and has taught that subject at Tarleton State University.

The Destroyermen series, beginning in 2008 with Into the Storm, concerns the fate of the United States Asiatic Fleet in World War II, and while I will leave it to you (and Wikipedia) to learn of its real history and fate, Anderson’s books carry a Great-War vintage “four-stacker” destroyer from that fleet (along with pursuing Japanese battleships) into a squall, which acts as a portal transporting both pursued and pursuers into an alternate earth where humans never evolved. There, the two dominant species (the peaceful Lemurians and the warlike, reptilian Grik) are at war, and sides must be chosen, escalating the conflict into a global war that with 2015’s Straits of Hell comprises ten novels, with an eleventh, Blood in the Water, due out in June 2016. (Perhaps I should have read the publisher synopsis of Blood in the Water before asking my final, foolish question, but! as usual, I leave my “own goals” for your enjoyment.)

Anderson headlines a fantastic lineup of military science fiction — including David Weber, Marko Kloos, A.G. Riddle, David Drake, Tony Daniel, and Chris Kennedy — at this weekend’s HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, with individual day and full weekend passes still available. It’s a further escalation of HonorCon’s roots as a convention focused almost entirely on Weber’s Honorverse — complete with many attendees in full Royal Manticoran Navy uniform — into a truly full-spectrum military science fiction convention. (Though, still, certainly, with the RMN out in full regalia in full force!) I’m looking forward to catching as much of it as I can.

Here, Anderson took the time via email to answer some questions about Weber, Navy weapons systems research, careless anachronisms, audiobooks, alternate histories, and, yes, a really, really stupid one about Blood in the Water. Enjoy!


Q: Are you familiar with David Weber’s Honorverse series, around which HonorCon has grown? Or Weber’s other ongoing SF series, Safehold?

Yes.  I read David’s On Basilisk Station about sixteen years ago and loved it.  I quickly devoured the rest as they came out and always look forward to the next.  I was honored to meet David at DFW-Con, around the time my second or third Destroyermen novel came out.  We had a long, vastly entertaining conversation, and I was amazed to discover I’d become friends with one of my all-time favorite authors!  I hadn’t begun reading the Safehold Series until about that time as well, and one of the things that struck us both, I think, was how much alike we think in a number of ways.  We’ve corresponded since, sometimes just going on for hours about ballistics or historical weaponry.  He called me several months ago and told me about this year’s HonorCon.  I thought “it’s been too long,” and said, “I’ll be there!”

Q: Your military SF concerns Naval battles in both a “mundane” alternate historical setting (actual 1940s ships and armaments) with various technological adaptations from the alternate Earth’s dominant species, wholly original to your work. Have you kept up with current Navy weapons systems research, like the recent demonstrations of lasers and rail guns, which certainly put today’s reality in line with yesterday’s science fiction? Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Delilah S. Dawson (writing as Lila Bowen) on Wake of Vultures

I recently had the chance to play chauffer for Georgia author Delilah S. Dawson, in town for appearances both at the SFWA Southeast Reading Series and the SIBA trade show. I learned many things. Dawson: knows her D&D editions; is as fascinated as anyone would be by a display of bizarre medical texts and archaic medical apparatus; has an appreciation of American transcendentalism; will totally impulse buy and eat Frankenstein candies of unknown provenance; and she had a really, really, really intriguing book coming out soon, pitched as “It’s Lonesome Dove meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a biracial, genderqueer heroine.” That book, Wake of Vultures, is out now in print, ebook, and audiobook editions. Elsewhere, Dawson wrote about the Big Idea behind the book, and here she writes about the hard part of giving into a story of questionable marketability she was starting to obsess about (and would instigate a new pseudonym!) instead of playing it safe and writing another “Delilah S. Dawson” young adult book. Enjoy!

— Essay by Delilah S. Dawson, writing as Lila Bowen —

Every story involves the writer taking the reader’s hand and urging them to jump out into the unknown. Some books are like hopping in a shallow, pretty rain puddle, but Wake of Vultures was more like leaping off a cliff. The hardest part was getting over my own fear of failure.

The inspiration for Wake was a late night tweet. This one, in fact:

It started as a joke but quickly became an obsession. Read the rest of this entry »


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