I had the pleasure to sit once more in the chair of the interviewed. Responsible for the line of questioning is S.C. Flynn, who runs a series of interviews with bloggers and websites’ editors of speculative fiction on his recently started blog. If you wish to see how mine turned out you can find the interview by following this link to S.C. Flynn’s site.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I am a great admirer of French book covers, the publishers there do a tremendous work and I am left in constant awe most of the times with the artworks adorning their book editions. It was only natural for me to take the step towards French comic books and graphic novels, an indiscernible shift to another love of mine. France has a great market of comic books, I’ve seen glimpses of it even during the dire era of Communist censorship, a couple of comic strips made us gather in a flock of kids around the little treasures of “Spiff and Hercules” or “Rahan” that managed somehow to find their way into Romania of my childhood. I re-discovered comic books and graphic novels in the recent years, I was drifting away for a bit but I came back to them with great passion. And with the little French I learned in school and my growing interest for French comic books I’ve started last year to read a couple of these publications. I am also keeping a close eye on the specialized publisher’s catalogues and it was while browsing through Glénat’s list of publications that I stumbled on a pair of writers and illustrators who made an instant hit on me. Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor are two artists working extensively within the fantasy and weird genres and when I came across the cover of their album, “Les Maudits - Bienvenue au Parc des Chimères”, on Glénat’s website all the circuits of my brain began to buzz. Going further to the interior illustrations and other books by Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor my desire to have their works close at hand and peruse them fully started spinning faster and faster. To avoid overcharging I was planning a financial push in acquiring these albums, but that led me to the discovery of “In Search of Lost Dragons” coming soon in English from Dynamite Entertainment. It did not change my decision of buying Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor’s works, it only altered a little the editions I am going for. As much as I would love to read “In Search of Lost Dragons” in French my knowledge of this language makes the process of reading this illustrated book much longer than it takes me in English. Fortunately, it is not the only one due to be published in English, also “Black’Mor Chronicles – The Demons: Welcome to the Park of Illusions” (which I mentioned earlier in its original title, “Les Maudits. Bienvenue au Parc des Chimères”, and that led me to the discovery of Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor) will be released by Insight Editions on June. I am still going for some of the French editions though, “In Search of Lost Dragons” and “Black’mor Chronicles – The Demons: Welcome to the Park of Illusions” are just two of the books written and illustrated by Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor, there are still three others to be considered, “Guide du savoir – (Sur)vivre en compagnie des ‘monsters’” (Guiding Manual – How to survive in company of monsters), “L’Épouvantable encyclopédie des fantômes” (The terrible encyclopedia of ghosts) and “L’Effroyable encyclopédie des revenants” (The frightful encyclopedia of spirits). After all, the notion of restraining myself goes out the window when I look over Carine-M and Élian Black’Mor’s gallery of illustrations, so much so that I am even twitching for this mug designed by Carine-M.
On the trail of dragons forgotten, an intrepid illustrator and reporter journeys from Europe through the Middle East and finally to Saigon in search of the dark caverns and mountaintop perches where the elusive winged serpents dwell. With the gift of seeing the invisible, our explorer friend records each encounter in a journal of gorgeous, fully painted artwork, capturing every majestic and fearsome visual detail of the scaly behemoths, and accompanies his findings with snippets of local lore as evidence that these hidden beasts continue to shape the world in ways we may never expect!
When world traveler and paranormal journalist Élian Black’Mor arrives in London, he discovers a hidden world—the Park of Illusions, a hidden refuge for werewolves, fauns, hydras, and other mystical creatures. In this stunning collection of his observations, Élian describes his encounters with fascinating supernatural beings of all kinds, from the Master Eel of the Thames to the Plant Sarcophagus of Kew Gardens.
A captivating story presented in a unique format, Black’Mor Chronicles: The Demons features striking illustrations and immersive text that work in tandem to produce a graphic novel unlike any other. From secret messages hidden in the illustrations to scrapbooked maps and Victorian advertisements, this beautiful book is one meant to be examined over and over again. Imaginative and spectacular, Black’Mor Chronicles: The Demons will have readers believing that Élian’s extraordinary hidden world truly exists.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Back in October I fell in love with the cover artwork of the new anthology published by Undertow Books, “Aickamn’s Heirs”. Of course, I was already in love with Yaroslav Gerzhedovich’s works so that might have helped a little. I mentioned then that I am unfamiliar with Robert Aickman’s writing and although this situation didn’t change in the meantime (I ordered the new editions of his four short stories collections released by Faber & Faber however) my interest in “Aickman’s Heirs” keeps burning. Not only because of that haunting, beautiful cover artwork, but also because of the presence on the table of contents of some of my favorite writers, such as Lynda E. Rucker, Helen Marshall or John Langan.
Coming Spring of 2015, Aickman’s Heirs, edited by Simon Strantzas, an anthology of strange, weird tales by modern masters of weird fiction, in the milieu of Robert Aickman, the master of strange and ambiguous stories. Editor and author Strantzas, an important figure in Weird fiction, has been hailed as the heir to Aickman’s oeuvre, and is ideally suited to edit this exciting volume.
“Change of Scene” by Nina Allan
“Seven Minutes in Heaven” by Nadia Bulkin
“Infestations” by Michael Cisco
“Two Brothers” by Malcolm Devlin
“Seaside Town” by Brian Evenson
“Neithernor” by Richard Gavin
“Least Light, Most Night” by John Howard
“Underground Economy” by John Langan
“Vault of Heaven” by Helen Marshall
“The Lake” by Daniel Mills
“Camp” by David Nickle
“Drying Season” by Lynda E. Rucker
“The Book That Finds You” by Lisa Tuttle
“A Delicate Craft” by D.P. Watt
“A Discreet Music” by Michael Wehunt
Monday, January 19, 2015
There is no love lost between me and the steampunk genre (I think it can be easily defined as a genre nowadays, as it has grown constantly over the past several years). I am afraid that I never have been considerably touched by steampunk, we intersected our paths on occasion, but I must admit that only rarely the steampunk literature hold my interest long enough. I am not as reluctant towards it as I am when it comes to zombie fiction for example, another sub-genre taking a life of its own but beaten more and more into a shapeless and featureless lump recently. I do have a seed that can be caressed in sprouting buds with steampunk, not many but I still cannot deny it. After all, one of my fondest childhood memories is that of my grandfather taking me on his bicycle to the railway lines and seeing trains passing by, our habit leading to an interest for old trains and locomotives. I will always cherish Jules Verne’s works and back when I played a lot of computer games two of those I played with great frenzy were Syberia and Syberia II, developed by Microïds, both full of mechanical things and automatons. So, there is something there to bring more interest from my part for the steampunk genre, but somehow it never buried its roots deep. However, like the zombie fiction I have already mentioned I do have some favorite stories within steampunk, even more of them than those of the former, perhaps a novel or two, but more of them coming in the shorter form. As I try as much as it’s in my power to not be confined in a reading personal comfort zone I am not the one to entirely discard steampunk fiction. Even more so when such genre stories are coming from different areas of the world, the more the better. As it was the case with a Romanian anthology dedicated to the steampunk genre, “Steampunk: The Second Revolution” edited by Adrian Crăciun (in which Michael Haulică’s “The Story of Calistrat Hadîmbu, Meanly Murdered by Nuncle Raul Colentina in an Inn on Bucharest Outskirts” stands out), or another such collection going far and wide across the Earth, “Steampunk World” edited by Jay Lake and Ken Liu. Regarding this genre it is its going outside England and the United States that holds such appeal to me, not because I don’t like those places, on the contrary, I love them, but because the historical industrialization era in those lands came on the expanse of other less fortunate countries and it is here where I can find the point of steampunk fiction only orbiting me without changing its trajectory to a point of impact. I believe it is because of such personal consideration that makes this genre not to be among my high reading priorities and yet it doesn’t let me throwing it entirely to the bin. And it is due to the same personal consideration that one of the steampunk titles coming this year can be found on my 2015 reading list, even close to the top of that list. Ediciones Nevsky plans the release of a steampunk anthology gathering some of the best voices of Spanish speculative fiction with stories that expand the borders of the genre.
“The Best of Spanish Steampunk” edited and translated by Marian and James Womack follows the steps of two anthologies already released by Ediciones Nevsky, both in Spanish, “Steampunk. Antología Retrofuturista” edited by Felix J. Palma and “Retrofuturismos. Antología Steampunk” edited by Marian Womack, but this time the editors hope to bring more awareness for the Spanish speculative fiction, to bring Spain’s steampunk to a wider market and audience. As much as I am concerned steampunk is alive and well in Spain, besides the two anthologies previously mentioned I am aware of a few others published in Spanish, for instance “Ácronos. Antología Steampunk” published in two volumes by Tyrannosaurus Books or “Fuenlabrada Steampunk”, a wonderful volume released by Kelonia Editorial which offered a chance for 12 young Spanish writers to prove their talent within this genre. Speaking of “Fuenlabrada Steampunk” there are other signs of the liveliness of the genre in Spain, this anthology was born as a contest of stories and illustrations held during the Fuenlabrada Fantastic Festival, dedicated last year to steampunk, a convention going hand in hand with another, similar convention, but devoted entirely to steampunk, EuroSteamCon, with already three editions taking place between 2012 and today in Barcelona, Bilbao, Mairena del Alcor, Madrid, Mallorca, Orense, Sevilla and Zaragoza, but also spanning across Europe in the past three years with conventions held in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. Without digressing further from the point of “The Best of Spanish Steampunk” though, this anthology edited and translated by Marian and James Womack brings into English what Spain has best to offer in terms of steampunk. Not only that, but as I love to travel far and wide across the world, more easily achieved through imagination and fiction, “The Best of Spanish Steampunk” does just that, the collection featuring stories from Spain, Mexico, Venezuela and Chile, but also Spanish writers who currently live in Germany, Dubai and the UK. My passion for travelling is equally matched by my love for visiting places without the restrains raised by time, space or limits of dreams and “The Best of Spanish Steampunk” does that too. The North-American-Spanish Cuban war, the Mexican war, the Anarchists revolts in the 1930s Andalusia together with settings such as Asturias, Catalonia, Andalusia or the times of the Imperial reign of Felipe II are all part of Marian and James Womack’s anthology. So, can I ask for more? I think I could not and no matter what my thoughts of steampunk are in general, “The Best of Spanish Steampunk” is a welcomed reading for me. True, for the time being the anthology is scheduled to be released in epub format only, but I can only hope that this is the first step and such a promising volume would see the light of print in physical format as well. And why not more, this to be one of the first themed anthologies that offers us the chance to explore Spain and the entire world through speculative fiction as meticulously as possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCING SPANISH STEAMPUNK
“Introduction” by Diana Pho
“Editor’s Note” by Marian Womack
“The Princess From the Centre of the Earth” by Félix J. Palma - Gaslight romance/exploration, this tale ties into the universe of Palma’s New York Times Bestselling VictorianTrilogy (The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky, & forthcoming The Map of Chaos), unarguably the most successful Steampunk work originally written in Spanish
ON POLITICS: FREEDOM, SOCIAL AWARENESS, INEQUALITY, “THE WOMAN QUESTION”
“Icarus” by Jorge Jaramillo - Allegorical steam-tale of a young man’s obsession with flight and its consequences.
“The Shepherd” by Cristina Jurado - Steam-futuristic tale: in a dystopian society one individual rebels against the system.
“Saturn’s Children” by Sergio Lifante - Steam-retelling of one of Barcelona’s darker crimes, the child killings in the early XXth century.
“Prey’s Moon” by Joseph Remesar - A Steam-London ravaged by poverty, an unknown beast seeks to avenge the poorest members of society.
“Mad” by Santi Pagés - Steam-feminist tale, imagining a Spanish suffragist movement.
“Priceless” by Cano Farragute - Feminist-gaslight romance. A feisty tale of female piracy, and the fight against female inequality.
ON CONFLICT: WAR, ALTERNATIVE HISTORY
“May the Fifth” by Paulo César Ramírez - Steam-retelling of the Mexican battle of 1862.
“Shots to the Gut” by Jesús Cañadas - Steam-retelling of the Anarchist Revolt in Casas Viejas (Andalusia) in the 1930s.
“Flesh Against Metal” by Rafael Marín - Steam-retelling of the American-Spanish war for Cuba.
“Board Them” by Javi Argauz & Isabel Hierro - The boarding of an airship causes the outbreak of Steam World War.
“The Hands That Built America” by Francisco Miguel Espinosa & Ángel Luis Sucasas - Steam-retelling of the American Civil War.
“Speed” by José María Merino - Allegory of the risks of progress: motorcycles become the target of ruthless attacks.
ON TECHNOLOGY: SCIENCE & MACHINES, SPAIN & THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
“Hating Lester Murray” by Laura Fernández - Steam-humor tale. A very talkative airship with aspirations to write, annoys its successive owners.
“Dynevor Road” by Luis Manuel Ruiz - A dark tale of how playing with our memories affects our identity.
“The Guts of a Clock” by Luis Guallar - Steam-horror tale, set in a clock-like building with maze-like shape.
“Surprends le Monde” by Ismael Manzanares - Steam-adventures and romance in the context of an alternative Paris Universal Exhibition.
“The Blue of the Sky” by Pedro Moscatel - An imagined future after the Steam-Revolution, highlighting the ecological damage it has produced.
“The Stranger” by Leonardo Ropero - Steam-ghost story, revisiting one of the sites of the Spanish Industrial Revolution, Asturias.
“The Lady of the Soler Colony” by Rocío Rincón - Steam-tale revisiting the ‘Colonies’, Catalan factory cities during the Industrial Revolution.
ON MECHANICAL MEN: AUTOMATA & CYBERNETICS
“Music Box” by Paula Rivera - Steam-tale about Köpte, a child automaton, and its fight against a mysterious Steam disease.
“Berlin Mechanical Men” by Noemí Sabugal - Hardboiled noir Steam-tale. A detective investigates the killing of several automata.
“The Mechanical Flower” by Josué Ramos - A young man’s heart-machine stops working after a break-up. A romance with language.
“Don’t Forget to Wind It Up” by Santiago Eximeno - A couple’s daily ordeal to keep their child alive, tied to the requirements of a Steam-machine.
“Come to My Arms” by Gloria T. Dauden - Steam-erotic tale. A mechanical arm brings a woman only unhappiness.
ON TIME & PERCEPTION: TIME TRAVEL, TIME CONTROL, MESMERISM & DIVINATION
“Biocronography: Aub’s Theorem” by Guillermo Zapata - Steam-retelling of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, featuring Dalí, Buñuel and Lorca.
“All That Never Existed” by Oscar Navas - Dark Steam-tale on the dangers to health posed by time-travel.
“Dead Time” by José Ángel Menédez Lucas - Clock-fantasy on the domination of time.
“Professor Pinetti’s Divination” by Oscar Mariscal - An illusionist, his three divination balls, and his unwilling solution of a crime.
“Instrumental Transcomunication” by Francisco J. Pérez - A meeting between a medium and a phantasmagoric child, in a Steam approximation to the weird genre.
“In a Glass, Darkly” by Marian Womack - A Circus with Lola Montes, Siberian tigers and blue monkeys; a young man and his visions of the woman he loves.
ON METALITERATURE: STEAMPUNK & OUR CULTURAL MYTHS
“The Cyclotech of Bubblelon” by Sofía Rhei - Steam-retelling of Oscar Wilde’s fairy-tales, with an ecological message.
“Hatter’s Rust” by Alfredo Álamo - Steam-retelling of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
“The One-Armed Man” by Rocío Tizón - Steam-detective story, inspired by the Ripper murders in London.
“Giants” by Rubén Sánchez Trigos - Steam-reimagining of the world of Georges Méliès, featuring a steam-propelled fairground.
“Masked Justice” by Rafael González - Steam-fantasy on Alistair Crowley, Stonehenge and a very peculiar kind of vampire.
“Black Eagles” by Eduardo Vaquerizo - A tale set within the universe of Vaquerizo’s original take on an alternative Spanish Empire, built after the imagined early death of Felipe II, and which extends into the XXth century.
“London’s Rivers” by Javier Calvo - An early example of Spanish pseudo-proto Steampunk, written preceding the arrival of the genre in Spain, a curious retelling of Mary Poppins, in the context of a detective investigation fuelled by the London fog.
Friday, January 16, 2015
As soon as the news of Gollancz acquiring the rights of two new novels by Aliette de Bodard “The House of Shattered Wings”, the first novel scheduled to be released, has become one of my most anticipated books of 2015. I am happy to report that “The House of Shattered Wings”, together with its sequel, will be coming to the U.S. too. Roc Books acquired the rights for the U.S. edition and in the light of this new information regarding Aliette de Bodard’s upcoming novel a more detailed synopsis has surfaced as well:
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Jo Fletcher Books has become a force to be reckoned with, they released some excellent titles since being established in 2011. One of my favorite authors published by Jo Fletcher Books is Alison Littlewood. I was in love with Alison Littlewood’s short stories before I had the chance to read her debut novel, “A Cold Season”, but since then my appreciation for her works only grew. Not only “A Cold Season” is a haunting and gripping story, but “Path of Needles” (still waiting for a proper review from my part) stepped the game up, bringing on the table two excellent main characters, Cate Corbin and Alice Hyland, caught in resolving a series of murders connected gruesomely to the old fairy tales, while “The Unquiet House”, still waiting peacefully on my reading table, looks like nothing inferior to Alison Littlewood’s works I’ve already read. Jo Fletcher Books holds the author in high esteem too, they concluded a deal for the publishing of three new novels by Alison Littlewood, the first, coming in September, “A Cold Silence”, being the sequel of the excellent “A Cold Season”.
What do you want? Whatever your wish, Acheron can grant it . . . for a price. And Ben Cassidy is about to discover just how scary that price can be. Ben’s always had strict instructions from his mother, Cass, to stay away from his childhood home of Darnshaw. Then an old friend from the village dies unexpectedly and Ben has no choice but to break his promise, for Jessica’s death might be linked to the computer game called Acheron – a game he knows all about.
Ben’s beloved sister Gaila has been playing Acheron too, and so have some more of Ben’s old friends from Darnshaw. And as they delve ever deeper into the world of Acheron, good intentions begin to slip, morals begin to look suspect and some of them find themselves falling deeper into corruption. Ben could save them all, but the price for doing so might just be too high . . .
I enthusiastically share the excitement of Jo Fletcher, the mastermind behind the imprint: “I’m thrilled to be able to continue working with Alison, who was not just one of my earliest acquisitions for JFB, but my first bestseller. I’m even more excited that the first book is A Cold Silence, the long-awaited sequel to her Richard & Judy Book Club pick A Cold Season – what could be better?”
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I find it really invigorating when new small presses are emerging on the market, as much as they put new measures of pressure on my overgrown reading list it is nothing but wonderful to see bold new venues for all the talented writers out there. My enthusiasm reached new heights when The Book Smugglers entered on the list of new publishers, part due to my joy of seeing such initiatives and part because of my familiarity with The Book Smugglers’ blogging work. I follow the excellent work put together by Ana Grilo and Thea James on this website for a handful of years now and I always enjoyed their reviews and articles. So, I was equally curious and elated to see The Book Smugglers taking a step into publishing on the fall on 2014. And although I still need to catch up with a couple of the stories released by Book Smugglers Publishing so far my expectations were fully met and surpassed. Not only by the short stories published, but also by the tremendous work put on the cover artwork, in the vein of the top notch art accompanying the fiction published on Tor.com. I even have difficulties in picking a favorite out of the six covers of Book Smugglers Publishing, the art of Kristina Tsenova (“Hunting Monsters” & “The Mussel Eater”), Jacqueline Pytyck (“In Her Head, In Her Eyes”, “Mrs. Yaga” & “The Ninety-Ninth Bride”) and Sally Jane Thompson (“The Astronomer Who Met the North Wind”) are excellent companions for the stories of S.L. Huang, Yukimi Ogawa, Michal Wojcik, Octavia Cade, Kate Hall and Catherine Faris King. The future is uncertain most of the times but with these stories and their cover art as reference I am more than willing to follow Book Smugglers Publishing on the avenue they are taking. With the promise of a sequel for S.L. Huang’s “Hunting Monsters” and a trilogy of short stories by Carlie St. George, “The Cinderella Noir”, on the horizon I do keep my fingers crossed for their road to be long and bright.