In 2004, HarperTorch published Dead Witch Walking, and Kim Harrison‘s urban fantasy “Hollows” series has since grown into a best-selling mainstay. In late February, HarperVoyager published book 12, The Undead Pool, in the continuing adventures of witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan, and Harrison was back on tour. As did last year’s tour for Ever After, this year’s tour brings her back to Quail Ridge Books tonight (Friday, March 7) at 7:30 pm. Harrison was kind enough to take some time in the middle of her tour to answer a few questions about her tour, urban fantasy, the Hollows, and what’s next.
Interview by Sharon Stogner
It is so nice to have you back in Raleigh, NC promoting your latest Hollows book The Undead Pool. You lived in SC for 10 years before moving back to your native state of Michigan. Coming to NC is quite a haul for you now. Why do you continue to include NC on our book tours? (I am so glad you do!)
Thank you, Sharon. I’m terribly excited to get back to the Carolinas, especially when I don’t really have a big say in where I go while on tour. I am guessing that I’m back again because of the marvelous crowd I had the last time. People here don’t mind a drive, and it’s great to see them.
Your name is one of the few that routinely comes up when people talk about the urban fantasy genre. After 20+ years of experience are there any general observations you have made regarding the ebb and flow of the industry and the urban fantasy genre in particular? Read the rest of this entry »
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 WayfarePosted: 5 March, 2014
Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells (Strange Chemistry, US release March 4, 2014; UK release March 6, 2014)
This is a sequel to Emilie and the Hollow World. Emilie has family problems and runs away from her aunt and uncle, and then finds employment and adventure with the Marlendes as they travel the aether in an airship, exploring the currents and the ways they could lead to alternate realities.
In this volume they end up in another world, a jagged, mishmash landscape that looks like it was formed from pieces of other places. They encounter a couple of different types of beings, one friendly and helpful and the other one not. The magicians in the crew get taken over by the bad aliens, who invade their bodies. This results in some adventures to keep everyone safe and to return everyone to their own universe, and members of a previously lost airship crew are discovered. Emilie discovers that a family member is a stowaway on the Marlendes’ airship, and with the help of Emilie’s plant-person ally Hyacinth, some ladder and rope stunts and harrowing mid-air transfers, almost everyone gets back eventually.
At first the story appears to be a “run-away-and-join-the-airship-crew” story, but due to the complex universe and multiple alien species found, it becomes more of a space adventure.
Emilie and the female scientists who employ her are not your typical females for this genre; they are self-reliant women who can and do defend themselves, and Emilie shows herself to be mature and quite a capable airship crew member.
This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure story with original characters and interesting steampunk technology. The tech is a tool for exploring, but the plot revolves around the characters, as it should. This is a good read for any age and either sex, and hopefully we will soon see further volumes of Emilie’s adventures.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen (Strange Chemistry, US release March 4, 2014; UK release March 6, 2014)
This is the story of a teenage girl from Annapolis, Maryland, Alex Wayfare, who has had strange visions periodically thoughout her 17 years. She has two little sisters, one of whom has leukemia. Her parents are researchers at an institute for medical research.
Alex is a techie who likes to fix everything she can get her hands on, including her Dad’s old Mustang. This makes her a very odd girl and her school days consist of getting bullied and teased plus an occasional disagreement with her teachers, particularly the history teacher.
After a bad experience at school she runs off and hides in an abandoned auto repair shop to wait until the school day ends. She finds a message to her on a flyer on the wall which directs her to meet Porter at a restaurant in the historic district. Porter gives her an explanation of why she has accurate visions of historical events, but his explanation at this and at subsequent meetings just makes her more confused. Eventually Porter takes her to Limbo, what she knows as the black place before visions, and she is finally able to understand where her visions come from.
She asks Porter about some people mentioned in one of her visions, but he won’t explain. She gets upset and triggers a vision to the past right before she was born, and she resolves several mysteries while in the vision but she still doesn’t know where her soul-mate Blue is in her current time. They set up a meeting time during winter break, but this volume leaves her arriving in Chicago with Porter and seeing the fountain where she is to meet Blue, but we don’t know if he is there because that’s the end.
Alex is an interesting character and her visions give some quite shocking views of historical periods. The history seems well researched and her supporting characters add a great deal to the vision sequences. Obviously, there will be more adventures since we have been left on a cliffhanger. It will be interesting to see how long Alex can continue her adventures without the bad guys discovering her name. Having her soul-mate in the present day would help too, because they both have memory issues when in a vision.
Having a character with multiple lives is not a new concept, but the way this is set up is different, with bad scientists behind it and a unique explanation given about limbo. Also, other multiple-life characters don’t have as many lives as Alex, because hers go back into the B.C. era. This is an interesting adventure story which is fast-moving and entertaining, so it should grab the attention of teen readers. Although the main character is female, since she is a tomboy her main peer issues have to do with her geekiness and not her sex, so boys should be able to relate too. There are also plenty of male supporting characters including Blue who show up in many scenes. Because much of the book does not take place in a high school, there are still plenty of things to interest adult readers. The mystery of what is going on, how Alex got the way she is, and who is really the bad guy will interest everyone, even those adults who aren’t interested in a tale of modern high school.
I have only myself to blame, but I only heard about Margaret Killjoy‘s forthcoming anarchist utopian novel A Country of Ghosts late last week and only over the weekend about his event tonight. Still, Killjoy, the founder of SteamPunk Magazine, co-editor of the essay anthology We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, and the author of the choose-your-own-adventure What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower, found some last-minute time to answer a few questions about his book. (And he does so with considerably more insight than I was able to provide in asking my questions, not having read the book yet, I dare say.) I’m very much looking forward to the book and to his talk tonight (Tuesday, March 4) at Internationalist Bookstore and Community Center on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill at 7 pm on “the usefulness of fiction–with a focus on utopian fiction–in anarchist struggle.”
Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
Why utopian fiction? You’ve edited non-fiction books, written a Steampunk choose-your-own-adventure, but utopian fiction is notoriously hard: where lies the challenges that drive a story when society’s problems are “solved”?
Writing utopian fiction definitely presents some unique difficulties, and yeah, coming up with good conflict to move the plot forward and keep readers engaged is probably the biggest one. One of the dangers of utopian fiction is avoiding pedantry… my goal isn’t to just describe a great society, it’s to tell a good story. In A Country of Ghosts, the utopian country is being invaded, so there’s obviously conflict there, and the protagonist is a foreigner, trying to figure out his own loyalties. But I also wanted to include internal conflict within the country, where some of their principles are challenged. I don’t know how to get into that part too much without spoiling anything, however.
In trying to compare the book with its literary antecedents, I come up with Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Lucky Strike, and Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean, but these all involve a much more advanced state of technology than the coal and iron of A Country of Ghosts, though some environmental themes seem to cross over. Perhaps a better antecedent there might be China Mieville’s Iron Council? And does technology help or hurt anarchism? Read the rest of this entry »
Friday Quick Updates: Allen Wold’s new collection, H.G. Wells panel, Mur Lafferty, NC Literary Festival adds Lev Grossman and Nathan Ballingrud, and (tons) morePosted: 28 February, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014: Wow. There’s a lot to tell you guys about since my last news roundup 11 days ago. So much I hardly know where to begin! Let’s start with what’s new at bullspec.com:
- Coming to Town: Megan Shepherd for Her Dark Curiosity and “The Lovestruck Tour”
- The Hardest Part: Jeremy Whitley on My Little Pony: Friends Forever
- Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, February 2014: Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, Dave Hutchinson’s Europe in Autumn, and The Kitschies
- The Exploding Spaceship Finally Returns, with Reviews of 2013 Anthologies!
Next to get them out of the way, two bits of “Sam, publisher” news. First is that the Duke Chronicle’s Annie Piotrowski wrote an absolutely fantastic article on three Triangle-area small press magazines, one of which was Bull Spec, for which she took the time to have a phone conversation with me. I really, really love how it turned out. Second! With a huge nod to local author and film-maker Eryk Pruitt, I’m a guest soup judge at this Thursday’s (March 6) Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Urban Ministries of Durham, at the Durham Convention Center. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that I’ve been training for this event my entire life. If I can do anything, it’s eat. A lot. Speaking of Eryk Pruitt, his forthcoming debut novel, the “Southern Fried crime noir” Dirtbags, has a new trailer. And it’s awesome.
More new and awesome things? Allen L. Wold just published A Closet for a Dragon: and Other Early Tales, a huge collection of mostly unpublished short stories, across his decades of writing, from his “first real stories” and even before those to his pre-stories, all with story notes and introductions by the author. And there’s two new local comic books out in the world, both fantastic, in about as different a way as there can be. Tommy Lee Edwards’ VANDROID is a pulpy, dirty, violent riff on 1980s action sf, and Jeremy Whitley’s My Little Pony: Friends Forever #2 is a fun-for-all-ages whimsical romp with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and the chaotic “Discord”, with much fun being had through some references I honestly don’t know how he got past the editors, but he did, and it’s printed, so it’s TOO LATE. I don’t want to give too much away, but: he does make use of the fact that John de Lancie is both the voice of “Discord” on the television series, as well as (of course) the voice of “Q” on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yes, he does.
There’s also a regional book release, The Narrow Gate: A Supernatural Thriller (Solom) by Scott Nicholson. Nicholson is a prolific author writing near (or in?) Boone. This is book 2 in his “Solom” series: “After the violent death of Katy Logan’s psychopathic husband, she inherits a farm in the Appalachian Mountain town of Solom. Determined to protect her teen daughter Jett and not surrender to fear, she builds a new life in the wake of the tragedy. However, the dark forces that drove her husband to madness still lurk in Solom, and a horseback preacher has returned from the grave with a sinister mission. Solom’s slumbering spirits are stirring, the herds of goats are restless, and the townspeople are banding together to ward off the sinister force that threatens to destroy them. Katy and Jett discover an unexpected ally as they are drawn into the supernatural showdown, but is anyone–or anything–powerful enough to walk away from Solom’s final battleground?”
OK, announcements time, rapid-fire edition: Read the rest of this entry »
After a four month hiatus, we return to reviewing!
So sorry for the downtime, but we had a parental heart surgery, several trips, and a house move in the last quarter of 2013 and the first couple of months of 2014. We should now return to our regular appearances on the pages of the magazine.
The last quarter of 2013 was a busy time for good anthologies. Having not read many all year, there were suddenly five which looked like good winter reads. Hank Davis of Baen edited both Halloween and Christmas anthologies. For those who like a good scary science fiction story, In Space No One Can Hear You SCREAM (of course it was released in October, 2013) contains a variety of old but not seen recently stories and some stories in a classic style from modern authors. All the stories have a spooky element to them, but none of them are gory. This volume contains stories by George R.R. Martin, Arthur C. Clarke, Neal Asher, Theodore Sturgeon, and several Baen regulars. One of the best things about Hank’s anthologies is his choice of content. Some science fiction magazines contain some stories which bear no resemblance to Your Humble Reviewers’ definition of science fiction (or that of anyone else who likes classic adventure stuff). Hank likes the classic stuff and writes some of it, too, so we rarely find a story we don’t like in his anthologies. So while we primarily read novels, a few anthologies get in which are either Hank’s, contain stories by people whose novels we read, or are edited by people we know.
Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, February 2014: Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, Dave Hutchinson’s Europe in Autumn, and The KitschiesPosted: 26 February, 2014
From the Other Side: February 2014
By Paul Kincaid
So the torrential rain and apocalyptic flooding we’ve experienced in much of Britain over the last couple of months meant that I wasn’t able to get to the Kitschies Award Ceremony, though on the up side this at least spared me the sight of whatever garish outfit Nick Harkaway had chosen to wear. The Red Tentacle for best novel went to Ruth Ozeki for A Tale for the Time Being, and for a novel that has generally had more mainstream recognition, including being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, her acceptance speech suggests a very finely judged recognition of genre status. In addition the Golden Tentacle, for the best debut, went to Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice; the Inky Tentacle for best cover went to Will Staehle for The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher; and the discretionary Black Tentacle went to Malorie Blackman.
With Awards Season now in full swing, the British Science Fiction Association has also announced the shortlists for the BSFA Awards. They are interesting lists, if perhaps unsurprising. Certainly I’m expecting a number of these titles to show up on other award shortlists this year. The Arthur C. Clarke Award, for instance, has revealed the full list of submissions received this year. 121 books in total (for the record, that’s getting on for three times the average number of books submitted while I was running the award), and a very interesting list it is too. I’m not going to go out on a limb and predict what is likely to make the shortlist (that’s not due to be announced until next month), but I am quite confident that we are going to see more women on the shortlist than last year. One last thing while I’m on the subject of awards, I note that Hugo nominations are now open for this year’s Loncon 3, so if you’re entitled to vote it’s time to start making that decision.
Away from awards (at least for the time being), it’s been a month for breakthrough novels. The biggest book of the month is Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer from Fourth Estate, the first volume in a trilogy. The other two volumes are both due out this year as well, Authority in May and Acceptance in September, an unusual publishing schedule to say the least. But it certainly seems to be paying off, given the amount of critical attention that the first volume is already receiving, and in places that don’t always devote much space to the genre. It’s a novel that seems to owe a debt to both Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Tarkovsky’s Stalker, as team of four women explore a strange zone that seems to do curious things to their perceptions, and it seems clear that it is going to reach a much bigger audience than VanderMeer has done before.
The other breakthrough novel this month is Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson, published by Solaris. Hutchinson had four books published while he was still in his teens, but then he stopped writing for far too many years. He’s lately started writing again, producing work that has been well appreciated (appearances in Year’s Best collections) without actually threatening the bestseller lists. Hopefully, Europe in Autumn should change that. On the surface, it’s an engaging and effective spy thriller (Hutchinson always has been a very good storyteller), but under the surface there’s something much more interesting going on. He imagines a near-future Europe Balkanized into a myriad of independent statelets, some as small as a city district or as elongated as a trans-European railway line. The reasons why the continent has disintegrated this way, and the effects of all these countless borders, make this one of the most politically astute novels I’ve read for a long time.
Other new books attracting attention this month Joanna M. Harris’s reimagining of Norse myth told by the trickster god in The Gospel of Loki from Gollancz, while the UK edition of Unfettered edited by Shawn Speakman includes an additional story by Speakman himself. British publishing seems to be getting into gear for the year, so there should be even more to talk about next month.
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, is due to be published early in 2014.
When I started looking more seriously into the local comic scene in 2009 and 2010, I found some big names: Tommy Lee Edwards, Scott Hampton, Richard Case. And, thanks to Ultimate Comics’ Al Gill handing me a copy of The Order of Dagonet #1 I have been able to follow comics writer Jeremy Whitley for a few years now, through the original Dagonet run from Whitley and artist Jason Strutz’s Firetower Studios, the re-issue of the comic from Action Labs, and a similar path for Whitley’s next project, the Eisner-nominated Princeless. I interviewed Whitley and Strutz for Bull Spec #3, and published their 4-part graphic story “The Long Lives of Heroes” across issues 5 through 8. I’m a big Whitley fan, which is one reason I’m so excited to see his story for My Little Pony: Friends Forever #2 from IDW next week. Here, Whitley writes about getting to play inside the rules of the My Little Pony universe — a bit of a contrast from creating in his own stories.
By Jeremy Whitley:
The hardest part of writing My Little Pony was accepting that I’m playing in someone else’s world. A lot of writers only ever get to/have to write in worlds that are of their own making. When I started working on MLP, I would make decisions, commit to them, and then be told that it was something I couldn’t do. I’m a big fan of the show and I love the world they’ve created, but in something like that that’s constantly evolving both on tv and in the comic, you can hit walls you didn’t even know existed. Read the rest of this entry »
The Lovestruck Tour features four YA authors – Megan Hansen Shepherd (Her Dark Curiosity), Megan Miranda (Fracture), Kasie West (Pivot Point), and Robin Constantine (The Promise of Amazing) – and five bookstores: Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore on Wednesday, February 19 at 7 pm; Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books on Thursday at 7 pm; Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books on Friday at 7 pm; Greenville, South Carolina’s Fiction Addiction on Saturday at 4 pm; and Decatur, Georgia’s Little Shop of Stories on Monday, February 24 at 7 pm. Asheville author Shepherd‘s 2013 debut novel The Madman’s Daughter visited the gothic aftermath of the classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, as the titular madman’s daughter, Juliet, visits the island to investigate accusations of his gruesome experiments. Last month, Balzer+Bray published the sequel, Her Dark Curiosity. ”Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves. Back in London after her trip to Dr. Moreau’s horrific island, Juliet is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget her father’s legacy. But soon it’s clear that someone–or something–hasn’t forgotten her, as people close to Juliet start falling victim to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes. Has one of her father’s creations also escaped the island? As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer–Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.” Here, she takes the time to answer some questions from Durham author Stephen Messer about her books and the tour. Enjoy!
– Interview by Stephen Messer –
You’re on tour now for Her Dark Curiosity, the second book of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. The first book was inspired by H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. What led you to adapt this classic sci/fi story for a modern, YA audience?
My original inspiration for THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER actually came from television, not the classics. I adored the TV show LOST and wanted to write a book set on a mysterious island. I happened to be reading DRACULA at the time, and it reminded me of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. So I went back to re-read it for pleasure, and was impressed by how relevant the scientific and moral questions still were. Given that it is a short novella and has no female characters, I thought there might be a way to take the basic story premise and retell it in a totally new way, from a female perspective.
Her Dark Curiosity draws its inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What are some of the challenges of adapting any classic work of science fiction? Read the rest of this entry »
Friday Quick Updates, Monday edition: Alice Hoffman, Megan Shepherd and The Lovestruck Tour, and the Nevermore Film FestivalPosted: 17 February, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014: Tonight sees the first of two events with magical realist Alice Hoffman in the Triangle, ahead of Megan Shepherd, Megan Miranda, and the rest of “The Lovestruck Tour” later this week. Hoffman’s new book is The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in the New York City of the early 1900s, and after launching the book at the Savannah Book Festival this past weekend she’s at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books tonight at 7:30 pm, ahead of a second event in the area at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village on Wednesday. That “Lovestruck Tour” starts Wednesday night in Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore, before local events Thursday (at Quail Ridge Books) and Friday (at Flyleaf Books).
Meanwhile, this weekend sees the Nevermore Film Festival’s return to the Carolina Theatre of Durham along with regional convention MystiCon in Roanoke, VA.
One new regional event to mention is on Friday, February 28th, also at Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore: a special event with Pulitzer-nominated author Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and a recent short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, consisting of an on-stage interview followed by a booksigning and a wine and cheese reception. Now, does anyone know if Amtrak goes to Asheville yet?
UPCOMING EVENTS, FEBRUARY 2014
17 (Monday) 7:30 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Alice Hoffman – ‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’.
19 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm — McIntyre’s Books hosts Alice Hoffman for The Museum of Extraordinary Things.
20 (Thursday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts The Lovestruck Tour – Four Passionate Authors. (See below for list.)
21 (Friday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts The Lovestruck Tour, featuring YA authors Megan Hansen Shepherd (Her Dark Curiosity), Megan Miranda (Fracture), Kasie West (Pivot Point), and Robin Constantine (The Promise of Amazing).
21-23 (Friday to Sunday) — 15th Nevermore Film Festival at The Carolina Theatre of Durham. More info: http://festivals.carolinatheatre.org/nevermore/
21-23 (Friday to Sunday) — MystiCon in Roanoke, VA withguests John de Lancie (ST:TNG’s “Q”), author Todd McCaffery, author A.J. Hartley, and more. More info: http://mysticon-va.com/
NEW: 28 (Friday) 7 pm — Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore hosts a ticketed event with author Karen Russell (Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories). The program includes an interview by Greta Johnsen followed by a booksigning and wine and cheese reception. More info: http://www.malaprops.com/event/karen-russell-conversation-wcqs-morning-edition-host-greta-johnsen-ticketed-event
[for more events check the most recent newsletter]
Mississippi author Deborah Johnson has spent the last few weeks on tour, since the publication of her second novel, The Secret of Magic, in print and ebook from Amy Einhorn Books. From Mississippi, through Alabama, Georgia, and this weekend in western North Carolina with events in Boone and Winston-Salem, leading up to two events this past week in the Triangle Area: Monday night at Quail Ridge Books at 7:30 pm and Tuesday night at Flyleaf Books at 7 pm. The novel is an historical fiction set in Mississippi of the 1940s around a real NAACP legal defense fund case, and featuring a fictional fantasy novel which shares the real book’s title. In that novel-within-the-novel, black and white children play together in the quasi-mythical Magnolia Forest. The book gains national renown, inspires a young lawyer, Regina Robichard, who travels from Thurgood Marshall’s NAACP offices to investigate the case of a black Army Lieutenant murdered on his way home after WW2, and is banned throughout much of the deeply segregated South. Johnson’s novel does not flinch whatsoever from the reality of that South, the era of Jim Crow laws, “separate but equal”, unpunished lynchings, and Confederate Flags flying proudly above the steps of the courthouse. I’ll admit to at first being partially pulled into the book by the back cover copy’s idea of the “parallels” which Robichard begins to discover between the fantasy-novel-within-the-novel and the events of the case, but there is no magical realism here — “just” realism, powerful and compellingly told, with that magical garnish of The Secret of Magic and the pull of childhood’s reading.
Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn:
Q: Both of your novels have taken place in your fictional town of Revere, Mississippi, albeit 20 years apart. Does anything tie the two towns together, 1946 to 1966, or are they each their own separate fictional creations?
The town of Revere Mississippi is the same in both novels. I wanted the setting to remain the same but the people to be different. Hopefully, each set of characters brings out the point that I most wanted to address within the frame of a particular time and set of circumstances.
Q: Your actual home of Columbus, Mississippi shares a similar population and geographic location — at least in its close proximity to Alabama — to the Revere of your novels. Is there a real-life analogue for Magnolia Forest, or any of the houses and streets? Read the rest of this entry »