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.

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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 »


The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition! Reviews of The Grace of Kings, The Rebirths of Tao, and Superposition

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Review of The Grace of Kings: Book One of the Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu (Saga Press, April 7, 2015)

Just when Your Humble Reviewers were getting tired of avoiding many fantasy novels because they all sounded like something we had already read, along came Ken Liu’s first novel to blow that idea away.  As a reader of some of his short fiction, we had high hopes for his novel simply because we suspected it would be well-written and based in a Chinese-influenced setting. The setting of the Dandelion Dynasty was far richer and more real than any fantasy setting we have read in years (we read approximately 75 books a year so that is quite a few).

Kuni Gara and Mata Zyndu are both complex male characters who, as brothers and enemies, illustrate the complexity of society’s norms for different occupations (in this case soldier and thief/conman) and how going beyond the expected can cause the entire world to change.  Also we see that the other people in their lives can change the course of history by a single act or conversation.  The setting is based on historical China during the Han Dynasty, so women usually have traditional roles, but some break out to do something non-traditional with the support of the more-open minded Kuni. Note that the names in the book follow English norm for order, not Chinese so Gara is Kuni’s surname.

The story moves very quickly and because a time reference and location are given for each chapter, it is easy to know which main character you are following in that chapter.  There are battle scenes, some of which are presented large-scale and others which are told from a single character viewpoint. All these are done with well-described geography so map lovers and tabletop war gamers will rejoice over the text and beautiful map. It would be easy to recreate some of them using miniatures, so we are sure it won’t be long before someone shows us how on the internet!

We loved the airships, kites, and mechanical cruben (something like a giant koi) in the book. We have several Chinese kites in our home, so a Chinese setting wouldn’t feel right without kites! Also I liked Liu’s choice of “eating sticks” instead of chopsticks (which even translated isn’t actually what they are called in Chinese). It gave insight into Liu’s writer’s brain, like he imagined it in Chinese and wrote it in English, translating names of objects and phrases as they should be, not as they were by foreigners visiting China several hundred years ago. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Urban Fantasy Good Reads: Pocket Apocalyse by Seanan McGuire and Demon Child by Kylie Chan

ColumnLogoColorSmall Review of Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire (DAW, March 3, 2015) This is the fourth novel in the InCryptid series about the Price family of cryptozoologists and their adventures saving humans and cryptids (monsters to some) from each other. In this volume Alex’s girlfriend Shelby must go home to Australia to deal with a werewolf infestation and Alex goes with her as an expert (having dealt with them before, which no one else in Australia has). Of course the boyfriend accompanying as science know-it-all from America doesn’t get a very good reception, so Alex ends up battling the locals and the werewolves. There are some good hand-to-hand combat scenes as well as some gun action. This results in characters getting seriously banged up in this volume. The werewolves are hiding in plain sight so there are several betrayals and complicated plot twists when people switch sides. The universe McGuire has imagined contains several interesting species (more are evident in Verity’s volumes, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special), many of which are hunted by the Covenant of Saint George. This means they have a love/hate relationship with humans and their society. The Prices generally judge people by actions and not species, but getting other humans to do this is difficult. pocket apocalyse cover Alex and Verity don’t really interact with each other except in flashbacks so it would be great to see them and their partners all together in one book. Alex has traveled outside the US with a native guide but it would be interesting to see other parts of the InCryptid world, perhaps with a cryptid guide. 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 Exploding Spaceship International Women’s Day Special Edition

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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 »


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.)

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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.”


The Hardest Part: Robert Creekmore on Afiri

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.

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Afiri by Robert Creekmore; cover design by Juliana Creekmore

 

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 »


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