In honor of International Women’s Day we bring you some thoughts on our favorite women science fiction writers and a review of a recent release from one of our favorites, Brenda Cooper. Her first books are space adventures set on a lost ship which finally arrives at its destination, and she has a new series set in the same universe.
Review of Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper (Pyr, March 3, 2015)
This is the first volume in a series called The Glittering Edge which is set in the same universe as The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep but a generation after the arrival of the starship Creative Fire.
Nona was the first person from the Creative Fire to be born on the Deep and be given the cocktails of life. She’s had to watch everyone from the spaceship grow old and die, including her parents Onor and Marcelle.
With the help of her parents’ legacy and Satyana, a wealthy family friend, Nona embarks on a trip to Lym to fulfill her father’s wish that she walk on a planet, something he had always wished to do. Nona gets a ranger guide named Charlie to take her places on Lym. Neither young adult was really what the other expected based on their opinions of people from Lym or the Deep. They find they have much more in common than either would have thought. Their romance is slow, careful and full of fumbles and when they are separated because of their jobs both are not happy alone. Read the rest of this entry »
[Editor’s Note: New column The Local Scene will introduce some of North Carolina’s fantastic roster of authors and their books, bimonthly on first and third 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.)
In March 2014, Canadian publisher EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy published her first novel, The Braided Path, also 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.”
North Carolina author Robert Creekmore‘s initially self-published his first novel Afiri through Amazon.com last year, but quickly withdrew it from commercial publication when he discovered that he could not make it continually available for free. After considering his options, in late February he elected to simply make the novel available as a PDF download from his website. With readers from North Carolina to Saudi Arabia, the move has paid off in more ways than one. Creekmore describes the novel as “polemical, narrative driven, mid-twentieth century science fiction” and it is written in a style “specifically geared toward young adults with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism”. The author is a veteran special needs teacher, who himself has Aspergers, and along with themes of social relationships and autism/neurotypical interaction the book presents a story of oppressive theocracies and segregation. After short introductory chapters dealing with death and hospital bills, young and soon-to-be-homeless Aksel Lauht sets off for the Linville Gorge Wilderness to make it on his own. Before long, however, he stumbles into a star-spanning narrative of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Here, Creekmore writes about developing the greater science fictional allegory for his thoughts on our own peculiar species.
By Robert Creekmore:
“The hardest part” wasn’t writing, rather, it is being “me” in a tidal pool of “yous”. First off, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a “you”, rather I’d deem it desirable. The “yous” have an amazing ability: they can read the minds of other “yous”. Then there is “I”. “I” am abnormal, a closed looped mind in a world of clairvoyants. “I” am autistic and you’re probably not. My front row ticket to the Homo-Sapien show has taught me a great many things about the “yous”. The problem is, I have a tendency to be rather intense and talk at people about my ideas, which can give one an air of lunacy. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, February 2015: Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod’s Poems, E.J. Swift’s Tamaruq, Naomi Foyle’s Rook Song, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise, Jonathan Barnes’ Cannonbridge, and much morePosted: 3 March, 2015
From the Other Side, February 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.]
Most poignant publication of the month has to be Poems by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod (Little Brown). The book came out on 16th February, which would have been Banks’s 61st birthday, and also, incidentally, the 31st anniversary of the publication of The Wasp Factory. The book was planned before his death in 2013, and includes 50 poems that he wrote between 1973, when he was at university at Sterling, and 1981, which was the year he began writing The Wasp Factory and abruptly stopped writing poetry. There are a couple of familiar pieces in there, including both “Zakalwe’s Song” and “Slight Mechanical Destruction” which bookended Use of Weapons, and, of course, he used odd lines from his poetry as song lyrics in Espedair Street, but mostly this is stuff we’ve never seen before, and if they betray strong influence from T.S. Eliot and also from the songs he was listening to in the 70s, they are still good and in some cases very good poems. They are accompanied by 28 poems from Ken MacLeod, who began writing poetry at about the same time as Banks, but never stopped, so these cover a longer period of time and in some cases are even more accomplished.
When Poems came out, we also learned that Banks had hoped that MacLeod would write another Culture novel. Unfortunately, he died earlier than anticipated, so his notes for the novel were not far enough advanced to make the project possible.
What can you say after that? So, a moment’s silence … and then onwards.
Friday Quick Updates: Oak City Comics Show on Sunday, and Wake County Library’s “Let’s Talk Sci-Fi” series kicks off with Drake and Van Name discussing HeinleinPosted: 28 February, 2015
Saturday, February 28, 2015: A belated Saturday edition of “Friday Quick Updates” this weekend, ahead of several events today and tomorrow. First! Today Ultimate Comics hosts comics creator/author/illustrator Chris Giarrusso (G-Man Super Journal, Mini Marvels) for a day of signings and quick sketches:
This appearance is ahead of Giarrusso’s appearance at the Oak City Comic Show tomorrow (Sunday, March 1) at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, with a fantastic lineup including Mick Foley, Tommy Lee Edwards, Dale Mettam, Richard Case, John Van Fleet, Daniel Way, Jeremy Whitley, Johndell Snead, Addy Miller, Amber Dawn Fox, and more. The show runs from 10 am to 5 pm, and admission is only $5 for adults and free for kids 10 and under, not to mention “the first 200 cosplayers get in for free!”
Sunday also marks the first event in Wake County Libraries’ month-long Let’s Talk Sci-Fi series, bringing pairs of fantastic local authors together to talk about classic works of science fiction: “Science Fiction & Fantasy authors discuss classic, iconic authors of the genres, including their body of work and influence. Take part in the discussion, share your thoughts and ask questions of the authors. Registration requested.” Events include: Read the rest of this entry »
Review of Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (Tor hardcover, February 3, 2015)
Karen is a teenager in Rapid City who works in a brothel. She’s bright and inquisitive, qualities which lead her into trouble but also allow her to learn some information that is useful to Madam Damnable, her boss. Rapid City feels like a strange steampunk San Francisco mixed with Seattle. The city is so textured and vibrant that it is itself a character in the book.
Many types of characters populate this novel, including a wide variety of ethnicities and sexualities, including Karen herself. Madam Damnable does not allow anyone to be mistreated or looked down upon and Karen follows her example. However, the setting is Victorian in flavor so the views of society and the law often conflict with the views held in the brothel.
The story structure is that of a mystery with both private detective and law enforcement characters present in the forms of Karen (the detective) and Marshall Reeves (the law enforcer). The marshall has a Native American sidekick, and so reminded Your Humble Reviewers of a more sophisticated Lone Ranger and Tonto. As with all good detective stories there is some romance in there as well. Because Karen is so young, it is really her first relationship. Her fumbling about trying to figure out how to approach Priya, a boyish young Hindu woman is quite adorable and very believable. Teenagers in love can be so sweet that adults want to smack some sense into them! It takes the girls a bit to sort out their relationship and having the confusion of a brothel fire just added to the messed up nature of teenage romance.
The clothes are described in detail and we liked that the men and boyish women got cool descriptions of their clothes too, not just the gowns. Also we liked how Bear demonstrated that class was depicted by the clothes and that this could be manipulated to make people see what you wanted them to.
The steam mech sewing machine was quite cool and used for several functions beyond sewing great gowns. The use of airships and submarines added interesting transportation complexities to the plot. The technology has a steampunk-style fantasy logic, so the odd things that some of it does are acceptable. The fantasy element is clear enough from the beginning that Angela’s engineer’s brain got the message to ignore realistic rules, that it was more like Star Wars tech rules, so that we didn’t get pulled out of the story.
Overall, it is a very interesting and quick read, one which kept Your Humble Reviewers up far too late finishing it. The book has a very sexy cover illustration, but it would have been nice to see Priya and that amazing sewing machine as well. This setting and cast of characters have great potential so please write quickly, Liz Bear, so we can read more soon!
Adult content note: While the setting is a brothel and some sex and violence are mentioned, none to speak of is on camera so it is a good read for more mature teens and adults. There are victims of violence against women depicted but sexual details are not dwelt upon and the result of the violence is not detailed. The situations dwell more on the characters’ reactions to someone who could do such horrible things. This would make a good family read for Mom with teenage girls in order to bring up some normally uncomfortable topics.
Israeli author and game designer Uri Kurlianchik was the first person with whom I had a Google audio chat, way back when we were discussing edits on his short story “The Sad Story of the Naga” in Bull Spec #2. (Or it might have been about his choose-your-own-adventure project I never figured out how to publish in a magazine?) Over the years now, I’ve enjoyed hearing his stories of teaching kids to play roleplaying games — the foolish or genius things that “his” kids try both in and outside of the rules and their understanding thereof has proven quite entertaining, as has watching him develop his own RPG, RATS, about “the rat holy war against humanity”. And his photos of the various landscapes in his travels are mind-blowing. Back in early 2012, he launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund an illustrated 20-story cycle of stories generated from those travels and those landscapes, and from the many peoples who have and still inhabit them. Last fall he e-published the collection as Tales from an Israeli Storyteller, but it took until January of this year for Uri to wrangle a print edition. That epic struggle with margins and fonts is only part of his essay on the hardest part(s) of putting this collection together.
By Uri Kurlianchik:
I have written numerous adventures and locales for various role playing games over the years. I often had to deal with rather capricious clients who insisted on reasonable deadlines, some semblance of readability, and not making offensive remarks about their mothers. This experience made me think that crowd-funding and self-publishing a story collection of my own should be a piece of cake.
In retrospect, I have no idea why I thought this. Read the rest of this entry »