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!

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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 »


The Exploding Spaceship Visits RavenCon 2015!

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Review of RavenCon 2015

Well, first of all, given the presence of large numbers of people from both sides of several issues causing no small amount of strife in the SF/F fan community, the attendees were all very well behaved. There was only one incident by someone claiming to be press, but hadn’t bothered to notify the convention that they were attending. Your Humble Reviewers were among a number of press people who had notified the convention ahead of time and were badged as such; failure to conform to the event’s press rules is a good way to not be allowed back in the future.

This convention traditionally has many writers and publishers in attendance, and this year was no exception. The Baen road show was present along with a couple of their authors, Steve White and Michael Z Williamson. There were several book launches over the weekend. We attended one for Gail Z Martin’s War of Shadows which featured readings and munchies. Fantastic Books, a new publisher which we had not seen at a convention in the southeast before, was also in attendance and supporting the Writer Guest of Honor Allen Steele. Ian Randall Strock runs the publishing house, and he hosted a book launch for Allen Steele’s collection Tales of Time and Space and Bud Sparhawk’s planetary sailing adventure Distant Seas.

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The convention has many writer panels, sometimes four or five running at once, and they run the gamut of topics from short fiction to novels to comics. Several writing workshop-type panels which must be signed up for ahead of time were also featured. This year they added an art track and that seemed to be well-attended.  They also featured some musical guests and panels of interest to filkers.

Friday and Saturday nights saw many parties being hosted on the con hotel’s eighth floor. Saturday night also featured a costume contest with many very good costumes.

The dealer room had a wide variety of goods on offer, including several book and jewelry stalls, a weapons stall, and a couple of costuming stalls. The author’s book signing table was also in the dealer room near the book sellers so everyone benefits from their presence, rather than having them cloistered off alone in a room. Other conventions could learn from this arrangement.

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This year’s convention was in Richmond, Virginia as it has been for the last ten years, but due to hotel issues, next year’s convention will be held in Williamsburg.

This convention has programming for all ages, including children. Aspiring authors and artists will find panels of great use to them. The parties allow for great networking. The convention is well run by experienced staffers. The anime crowd is evident at the convention but they are only a small portion of the convention, with most of the programming being influenced by the writers, artists and musicians.


The Exploding Spaceship Belated Edition: Review of Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

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Review of The Mirror Empire: The Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley (August 26, 2014, Angry Robot)

Your humble reviewers apologize for not posting this with their young adult appropriate fantasy column shortly after it was released. We wrote and edited the review but in the midst of the fall craziness it didn’t get posted in the column. The book has been nominated for a Gemmell award, and that made us go back to see where our review went. We loved the book, and knew we had reviewed it, but unfortunately had forgotten to share it with everyone else!

This book is set in a fantasy world where not only are there many different cultures and languages, but also alternate versions of the world where there are duplicates of almost everyone. People can only cross between parallel worlds if there is no version of them in that world, so this leads to intrigue and murder across the worlds as power groups try to go across to get more power, larger armies and more magic users. Some worlds have lost many magic users because of large scale genocide events in the past, so they try to get replacements from neighboring worlds. Magic is controlled by the satellites of the planet, with different magic users able to control things when a certain satellite is visible. A satellite with a very long and unstable period is coming into range so its powerful magic users will be getting strong and every time this happens, invasions occur in many worlds.

Lilia was raised as a drudge in the Temple of Oma (the satellite with the very long and unstable period). She has memories of her and her mother being attacked, then her being sent to her mother’s friend who took her to the temple. As a drudge she has access to all the books and strategy games that the students have and she takes advantage of them.  She remembers her mother placing a sign on her hand, but she can’t see the sign now. When she is a teen, she asks a friend to research what the sign means. This leads to a mystery that isn’t solved until late in the book. Her friend Roh is a good fighter and good mage but not so good at the books. This makes them a good team, but unfortunately she is forced to leave the temple in order to save him.

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When she leaves the temple riding a bear and in the company of a mage, her agenda is of course not that of the person with her.  She travels around the world, gets injured, makes friends and enemies, learns to be a healer and learns more about her own magic. She is trying to follow the promise she made to her mother that she would return to her, but this involves many battles and travel through a portal into another world several times.  The people she meets up with at the end have their own strands of plot through the book and these strands are woven together well, with all of the characters learning the true nature of their world at different points before the final scenes.

The magic system and parallel world setup make this a very interesting setting. It has rich and complex characters from many cultures, even the same cultures from parallel worlds are different. We are really looking forward to more books from Kameron Hurley, hopefully in this same universe. This is an amazing novel.


The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition: Review of War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin

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Review of War of Shadows: Book Three of the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit, April 21, 2015)

Blaine and his friends continue the battle to save Donderath from Reese and Pollard and the crazy mage Vigus Quintrel.  Blaine’s ex, Carensa, gives us a viewpoint of what Quintrel is doing.  She has realized her mentor is bonkers, but fears for her life since he keeps killing mages (whose ghosts actually turn out to be helpful, too).

One event in this book which was a nice change from battles was the wedding of Blaine and Kestel Falke. It takes place at Glenreith and Blaine’s annoying brother Carr does what he can to disrupt things and pull the newlyweds away from the festivities. The Madness seems to have left Carr with a desire to take increasingly bigger risks until he is killed, so while Niklas gives him some scouting jobs, most of his time is spent on very risky missions he doesn’t have orders to do.

There are increasingly violent storms across Donderath as the natural weather patterns reestablish themselves after years of manipulation by mages. Not quite as bad as the weather in Edgeland, but all the rain and snow causes flooding and much damage to already damaged buildings. They have to balance using soldiers for defense with using them to rebuild falling buildings. The damage to buildings and fields means that food is scarce. Blaine and his allies encourage people to plant crops and round up livestock that is running wild, but Pollard and Quintrel don’t do this: they just steal the common people’s food for themselves.

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There are many battles in this volume, all well-written and having some magic-based surprises. Poor Blaine is the anchor of the world’s magic and it wears him down and gives him headaches when he is near magic. His mages are able to help him some with artifacts they find, but it is basically a race to see whether he can last until his mages figure out how to create more lords of the blood, so the anchoring goes between thirteen. Quintrel wants to be able to control the anchors, so of course he does everything in his power to keep Blaine from his task. 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.

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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 »


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