Thursday, May 7, 2015

Short break

Things have been a little quiet around here and they’ll remain so for a bit longer. I am involved in a project at work that also requires some travelling among other things. So, my next post should come up in 2 or 3 weeks from now. I hope to see then.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Locus Awards finalists

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the finalists of the 2015 Locus Awards. The winners will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend held in Seattle, WA between June 26th and 28th.

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
“The Peripheral” by William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
“Ancillary Sword” by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
“The Three-Body Problem” by Cixin Liu (Tor)
“Lock In” by John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
“Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance” by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

FANTASY NOVEL
“The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison (Tor)
“Steles of the Sky” by Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
“City of Stairs” by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
“The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman (Viking; Arrow 2015)
“The Mirror Empire” by Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot US)

YOUNG ADULT BOOK
“Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey; Voyager UK)
“The Doubt Factory” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
“Waistcoats & Weaponry” by Gail Carriger (Little, Brown; Atom)
“Empress of the Sun” by Ian McDonald (Jo Fletcher; Pyr)
“Clariel” by Garth Nix (Harper; Hot Key; Allen & Unwin)

FIRST NOVEL
“Elysium” by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct)
“A Darkling Sea” by James L. Cambias (Tor)
“The Clockwork Dagger” by Beth Cato (Harper Voyager)
“The Memory Garden” by Mary Rickert (Sourcebooks Landmark)
“The Emperor’s Blades” by Brian Staveley (Tor; Tor UK)

NOVELLA
“The Man Who Sold the Moon” by Cory Doctorow (Heiroglyph)
“We Are All Completely Fine” by Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
“Yesterday’s Kin” by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Regular” by Ken Liu (Upgraded)
“The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss (Rogues)

NOVELETTE
“Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie (Rogues)
“The Hand is Quicker” by Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
“Memorials” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s 1/14)
“The Jar of Water” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Tin House #62)
“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch (Rogues)

SHORT STORY
“Covenant” by Elizabeth Bear (Hieroglyph)
“The Dust Queen” by Aliette de Bodard (Reach for Infinity)
“The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar (Kaleidoscope)
“In Babelsberg” by Alastair Reynolds (Reach for Infinity)
“Ogres of East Africa” by Sofia Samatar (Long Hidden)

ANTHOLOGY
“The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-first Annual Collection” edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin’s Press)
“Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History” edited by Rose Fox & Daniel José Older (Crossed Genres)
“Rogues” edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (Bantam; Titan)
“Reach for Infinity” edited by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
“The Time Traveler’s Almanac” edited by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer (Head of Zeus; Tor)

COLLECTION
“Questionable Practices” by Eileen Gunn (Small Beer)
“The Collected Short Fiction Volume One: The Man Who Made Models” by R.A. Lafferty (Centipede)
“Last Plane to Heaven” by Jay Lake (Tor)
“Academic Exercises” by K.J. Parker (Subterranean)
“The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Nine: The Millennium Express” by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean; Gateway)

MAGAZINE
Asimov’s
Clarkesworld
F&SF
Lightspeed
Tor.com

PUBLISHER
Angry Robot
Orbit
Small Beer
Subterranean
Tor

EDITOR
John Joseph Adams
Ellen Datlow
Gardner Dozois
Jonathan Strahan
Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

ARTIST
Jim Burns
John Picacio
Shaun Tan
Charles Vess
Michael Whelan

NON-FICTION
“Ray Bradbury Unbound” by Jonathan Eller (University of Illinois Press)
“Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!” by Harry Harrison (Tor)
“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore (Knopf)
“Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better: 1948-1988” by William H. Patterson, Jr. (Tor)
“What Makes This Book So Great” by Jo Walton (Tor; Corsair 2015)

ART BOOK
“The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal” by Jim Burns (Titan)
“The Art of Neil Gaiman” by Hayley Campbell (Harper Design)
“Spectrum 21: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art” edited by John Fleskes (Flesk)
“Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales” by Brian & Wendy Froud (Abrams)
“The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era” by Ron Miller (Zenith)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cover art - "Sorcerer to the Crown" by Zen Cho

Aliette de Bodard’s “The House of Shattered Wings” is not the only title coming at the end of summer/the beginning of autumn from the science fiction and fantasy imprints of the Penguin Publishing Group that I am looking forward to read, Zen Cho’s “Sorcerer to the Crown” caught my attention as well. I first discovered Zen Cho’s fiction in Jonathan Oliver’s anthology, “End of the Road”, her story “Balik Kampung (Going Back)” was one of the highlights of that collection for me. That short story led me to “The House of Aunts” published on GigaNotoSaurus in December 2011 and to my desire to read more of Zen Cho’s fiction. Sadly, the fulfillment of my wish got postponed, I lost Zen Cho’s collection of short stories, “Spirits Abroad”, among the tangles of my to-be-read pile of books. I am confident I will correct that, perhaps not before “Sorcerer to the Crown” is released, but someday soon for certain. As it is certain that I’ll be reading “Sorcerer to the Crown” when it is published this autumn. At a first glance Zen Cho’s debut novel doesn’t sound exactly right up my alley, but her two short stories I read convinced me that “Sorcerer to the Crown” deserves a fair chance. Not to mention that going outside the safety box of my usual readings proved on several occasions to hold plenty of benefits. Still, looking over Zen Cho’s guest post on the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog I discovered further points of attraction for me at “Sorcerer to the Crown”.

“But there are also stroppy magicians enmeshed in intrigues, dragons in disguise, foppish fairies, giant mermaids, and people flying around on clouds. Characters cast spells that go wrong and find themselves hopelessly entangled in hijinks. Women of various descriptions harangue other people at hilarious length. I was thinking about power when I wrote the book, but I wrote it mostly to entertain and comfort myself, as a prophylactic against loneliness. I hope it serves that purpose for others too.”

I like the cover quite a lot too, the color appeals to me and the sensation of bas-relief is excellent, while the dragon looks great. It doesn’t say much about the actual novel, but I still like it.

With all these in mind I am waiting with great interest the release of Zen Cho’s “Sorcerer to the Crown”, on September, 1st by Ace Books in the US and on September, 10th by Pan Macmillan (cover not yet revealed) in the UK.

In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Title spotlight - "The Two of Swords" by K.J. Parker

So, K.J. Parker stepped out of the shadows and cast a light on the identity of the writer behind this pseudonym, that of Tom Holt. (I could have used some drums and made a longish pause here to heighten the suspense, but there is nothing surprising left of it since this news is over a week old.) I have very little to opinion on this, besides knowing precisely how to address K.J. Parker my consideration for his works doesn’t suffer any change whatsoever. K.J. Parker is one of my favorite fantasy writers, if not the top favorite. My only thought on this matter is that I hope K.J. Parker would continue to keep me busy with his novels and short stories in the future. I rest assured for the time being, K.J. Parker’s new novel “Savages” is coming this summer from Subterranean Press, while on September Tor.com publishes his novella “The Last Witness”. More than that, between these two Orbit Books will finish the publication of K.J. Parker’s serialized novel, “The Two of Swords”. The first three parts of “The Two of Swords” are already available in various electronic formats, with the fourth coming on May and the rest monthly until September. There is a downside for me here, I am not very fond of serialized novels, since my patience is already put to a test by waiting for the books I wish to read to be released I am more willing to await the publication of all the parts of a serialized novel before starting reading it rather than wonder what happens in the next installment. It’s no easy task to do that with favorite TV shows or fantasy series. I just hope that when all the 8 parts of “The Two of Swords” are published a physical volume would be available also; I would certainly love to put it next to my copies of all K.J. Parker’s books. If you want to learn more about “The Two of Swords” or start reading it already you can find all the details on its dedicated website.

“Why are we fighting this war? Because evil must be resisted, and sooner or later there comes a time when men of principle have to make a stand. Because war is good for business and it’s better to die on our feet than live on our knees. Because they started it. But at this stage in the proceedings,” he added, with a slightly lop-sided grin, “mostly from force of habit.”

A soldier with a gift for archery. A woman who kills without care. Two brothers, both unbeatable generals, now fighting for opposing armies. No-one in the vast and once glorious United Empire remains untouched by the rift between East and West, and the war has been fought for as long as anyone can remember. Some still survive who know how it was started, but no-one knows how it will end.

This serial novel from the World Fantasy Award winning K. J. Parker is the story of a war on a grand scale, told through the eyes of its soldiers, politicians, victims and heroes. The first three parts of The Two of Swords will arrive in April 2015, with further installments to be released monthly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2014 Australian Shadows Awards

Last Friday the winners of the 2014 Australian Shadows Awards, awards recognizing annually the best published works of horror fiction written and edited in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, have been announced.

BEST NOVEL:
“Wolf Creek Origin” by Greg McLean & Aaron Sterns (Penguin Books Australia)

BEST SHORT FICTION:
“Shadows of the Lonely Dead” by Alan Baxter (Suspended in the Dusk, Books of the Dead Press)

BEST EDITED WORK:
“SQ Magazine, Issue 14, May 2014” edited by Sophie Yorkston (SQ Magazine)

BEST COLLECTED WORK:
“Last Year, When We Were Young” by Andrew McKiernan (Satalyte Publishing)

PAUL HAINES AWARD FOR LONG FICTION (NOVELLA):
“Dreams of Destruction” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (self-published)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Monday, April 20, 2015

2014 Australian Shadows Awards nominees

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the shortlist for the 2014 Australian Shadows Awards, awards recognizing annually the best published works of horror fiction written and edited in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. The winners will be announced on Friday, April 24th via the AHWA’s social media sites.

BEST NOVEL:

“Suicide Forest” by Jeremy Bates (Ghillinnein Books)
“Book of the Dead” by Greig Beck (Momentum Books)
“Dark Deceit” by Lauren Dawes (Momentum Books)
“Wolf Creek Origin” by Greg McLean & Aaron Sterns (Penguin Books Australia)
“Davey Ribbon” by Matthew Tait (
HodgePodge Press)

BEST SHORT FICTION:

“Mephisto” by Alan Baxter (Daily Science Fiction)
“Shadows of the Lonely Dead” by Alan Baxter (Suspended in the Dusk, Books of the Dead Press)
“Mummified Monk” by Rebecca Fung (Daylight Dims Volume 2, Stealth Fiction)
“Bones” by Michelle Jager (SQ Magazine, Issue 14, May 2014)
“Last Year, When We Were Young” by Andrew McKiernan (Last Year, When We Were Young, Satalyte Publishing)

BEST EDITED WORK:

“SQ Magazine, Issue 14, May 2014” edited by Sophie Yorkston (SQ Magazine)
“SNAFU” edited by Geoff Brown and Amanda J Spedding (Cohesion Press)
“Suspended in Dusk” edited by Simon Dewar (Books of the Dead Press)

BEST COLLECTED WORK:

No shortlist, winner to be announced

PAUL HAINES AWARD FOR LONG FICTION (NOVELLA):

“Ghost Camera” by Darcy Coates (self-published)
“Dreams of Destruction” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (self-published)
“The Shark God Covenant” by Robert Hood (Dimension6, Coeur De Lion Publishing)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review - "Pumpkins in the Closet - Burials" (Calabazas en el Trastero - Entierros)

Publisher: Saco de Huesos
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

A horror anthology centered on burials and funerals is a very interesting concept, with a wealthy potential for making the theme very scary. With fear of being buried alive popping right away into mind, a torment made by Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and the movie featuring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Rodrigo Cortés, “Buried”, even more frightening, “Pumpkins in the Closet – Burials” could pile up further nightmares related to the final road we are all inevitably going to take.

“The Michael Ranft’s Treatise” (El tratado de Michael Ranft) by Miguel Puente Molins – On the Halloween night two friends go to the cemetery to dig out the grave of an alleged gipsy witch, one to prove the affirmations of Michael Ranft’s two hundred years old treatise on vampires, witches and living dead, one to prove the other wrong. There is nothing groundbreaking at the opening story of this anthology, but Miguel Puente Molins executes very nicely the subject of “The Michael Ranft’s Treatise”. An obscure, occult volume on dark matters always holds an appeal for me, but the author also creates some powerful imagery within his tale. The violent acts surrounding the death of the alleged gipsy witch are brutal, without descending into unjustified gruesomeness Miguel Puente Molins projects on the readers’ eyes images not easy forgettable through the brutal act that leads to the vicious suicide of the supposed witch. And the lack of an original twist for the end of the story is heavily compensated by the way the protagonist experiences the final event, even seeing rats as playful, sweet and pleasant little things in hope that they are the cause for the dreadful sounds surrounding him.

“Death Certificate” (Certificado de defunción) by Manuel Osuna – Alfredo, an old undertaker who struggles to make ends meet, accepts the odd job of taking an unidentified man, dead by drowning, to the nearby cemetery. When in the middle of the night a winter storm prevents him from going further and the roaming wolves from the surrounding forest spook his horses making them bolt Alfredo faces an imminent death by freezing or by falling prey to the nocturnal predators. His only means for escape seem to lie on the dropped coffin from the runaway carriage. Manuel Osuna creates an excellent atmosphere within his story, besides the uncomfortable feeling left by the particularities of Alfredo’s job the extreme weather and the menace of the nocturnal predators generate an oppressive setting, working in the fullest. The end of the story is a bit predictable, but fortunately the situation becomes apparent well towards the finale, up to that point “Death Certificate” left me fumbling for the outcome of the tale, with plenty of room for satisfaction in the process.

“How the Mayor Attended the Night Debate of Buddy, ‘the Gravedigger’” (De cómo el señor alcalde acude al debate nocturne de Buddy, “el Enterrador”) by Juan de Dios Garduño – Buddy, an underachiever preferring to work as the gravedigger and cemetery caretaker of his village, holds intellectual nocturnal debates in his home, but for the latest, concerning the merits of horror literature over the more conventional one, he needs to summon the presence of the mayor in support of his opinion. It is a shorter story, but all the pieces of its plot fall, nicely, into place right at the end. There is also a tint of humor in Juan de Dios Garduño’s tale and although that is of a dark shade it still works favorably for the story, adding it an extra interesting layer.

“Important is to Start” (Todo es empezar) by Pedro Escudero Zumel – Samuel, the narrator of the story, recollects, twenty-three years later, his first day of work as one of the cemetery’s caretakers, when Antonio, the veteran occupant in a similar position, guides him through some of the tasks of his new job. Only some of them require more cold blood than Samuel imagines they would. I am afraid that I was not impressed by this story. Although the tale takes another approach of the anthology’s theme than the previous ones it does not manage to send a frightening feeling across. Yes, the protagonist comes face to face with something completely unexpected but his sense of terror left me cold and the danger he faces over his years on the job doesn’t leave the impression of menace I was left to believe it poses.

“The Procession of the Mourners” (La procession de las plañideras) by Jorge Mulero Solano – A procession of mourners follow the bodies and spirits of 26 women, dead in an unknown, strange event, into the afterlife. I cannot pinpoint a specific plot within the very short span of this story, I can only say that some of mourners walking in this procession are the mythological virtues and there are a couple more references to Greek mythology. Although it is hard to define Jorge Mulero Solano’s story it still contains some powerful imagery.

“The Junction of Music” (El cruce de la música) by Francisco Jesús Franco – The protagonist of the story kidnaps three girls he finds on the roadside following a car accident. “The Junction of Music” is told through the perspective of the main character holding a conversation with the three kidnapped girls while taking them to a secluded place within the woods and at the destination, although that is pretty much a monologue since the terrified girls have no direct part in the dialogue. This approach from Francisco Jesús Franco brings great fluidity to his tale. The character reveals his intentions early on, creating the sense of dread quickly, the readers, as much as the three kidnapped girls, are left to discover the manner through which he wishes to execute his plan only late in the story. The constant chattering is marked by sudden changes in the character’s attitude, sometimes very polite, sometimes angry, sometimes mocking, and throws a light on the terror behind his acts and motivation. The ordeal of the three girls unfolds also through little comments made when they have a certain reaction to something the protagonist says, these small glimpses on their responses to the fearful event looming ahead adding further dread to the story.

“Harvest of Bones” (Cosecha de huesos) by José María Tamparillas – Lucas Cebrián inherits a small farm from his uncle but his efforts are rewarded only by very poor crops and a great number of buried human bones. He is unaware that the people from the nearby village bury their suicides on his grounds and when Lucas discovers that he suspects there is something connecting these burials and his miserable crops. José María Tamparillas builds a deeply dark, haunting atmosphere throughout his story. Starting with Lucas, a character whose entire existence is full to the brim with misfortune, and continuing with the setting, spilling further mischance on Lucas’ already full of misery existence, “Harvest of Bones” is full of an unsettling feeling.
“Month after month, year after year, Lucas fought bravely against the fate he had inherited: a farm infected with leprosy, in the middle of an unhealthy moorland where only the mosquitoes, the snakes and the rats thrived: surrounded by a sterile land with which he had to fight to get some fruit.”
This disturbing feeling and overbearing atmosphere starts to grow however, the constant presence of hot temperatures and humidity, the self-imposed isolation together with the suspicions and rejections Lucas faces from the villagers and the eerie events of the burial make the story even more chilling. The icing on the cake comes with the end of the story in form of a long and very powerful final scene, uncompromising imagery and high-voltage tension gathering around one sinister event. José María Tamparillas strikes a balance of uncomfortable images and bloodcurdling sensations making “Harvest of Bones” raise goose bumps on my skin. Very strong characterization and excellently built atmosphere make this story one of the best I read in recent times.

“We Are Nothing” (No somos nada) by Laura Luna Sánchez – Assisting at the funeral of her friend the protagonist of the story makes comments on those attending it alongside her. Although the story touches on the theme of the collection it derails from its terrifying elements being more of a statement on hypocrisy and modern social status. It is also a very short tale, approximately matching the length of “How the Mayor Attended the Night Debate of Buddy, ‘the Gravedigger’”, but while that one delivers a punch through dark humor “We Are Nothing” doesn’t compensate in the same way. I am afraid that although its comment on modern society and some of the relationships born out of it is interesting the story misfires when it comes to the unsettling and disturbing aspects related to the anthology’s purpose.

“Moroaica” (Moroaica) by Juan José Hidalgo Díaz – Sophia Smith runs a herbalist shop, but the other side of her business deals with more occult aspects. When a countess enters her shop and her servant calls Sophia a very strange word she feels that can find an answer, with the help of the countess, for the powerful dream that haunts her constantly. The title of the story rang a bell as soon as I read it, the moroi is an important part of the Romanian mythology. (It is believed that a baby dead before being baptized, killed or buried alive or a person buried without a religious ceremony can turn into a moroi. In other legens a moroi is the offspring of two strigoi, which are bad spirits of the dead.) The story proved that I was not wrong to think of that, “Moroaica” deals exactly with this element of the Romanian mythology and it does so with outstanding efficiency. Juan José Hidalgo Díaz clothes this legend with powerful scenes and shivering feelings, his story sent, more than once, ice cold bolts down my spine. Sophia’s bizarre dream, her visit to the madhouse and the story she hears there are highlights of this very good tale. The author also flavors “Moroaica” with dark aspects of the historical times in which the story is set, adding further dread through some harsh realities of those years. I loved Juan José Hidalgo Díaz’s deeply unsettling story not only for his excellent take on a Romanian legend, but also because it tackles the anthology’s theme with originality.

“... And Avoid the Bad Thoughts” (… Y evitar los malos pensamientos) by Manuel Mije – An uncle and his nephew, both death and mute, go to a funeral in their village and on the road there they place little objects on the road. This story is a bit odd, but not in a bad way. It works in subtle ways and the outcome is left hanging in the air, without a straightforward conclusion. Among the other stories of this collection Manuel Mije’s tale is also the one leaving an optimistic feeling in its wake, but still using some of the sad facts related to humanity along the way.

“An Empty Grave” (Una tumba vacía) by Juan Ángel Laguna Edroso – A young boy sneaks into the attic of his grandparents’ house to read his favorite comic books. A nice little story, with a catchy twist and a metafictional touch. It is not a spectacular story, but it emits that lovely vibe similar to a point to that of “Tales from the Crypt” vignettes.

“They’ll Cry for You” (Y llorarán por ti) by José Ignacio Becerril Polo – A man wakes to find himself in the middle of one of the worst nightmares, buried alive. I guess for the main topic of this collection going at some point for the perspective of a buried was inevitable. However, what hurts “They’ll Cry for You” is José Ignacio Becerril Polo relating the story in first person, for me it took away some of the suspense and tension of the situation. The first person perspective let me believe the character will not end buried for good, otherwise how could his story reach out with the details only the buried protagonist could experience. Towards the end the author salvages something out of this through not one, but two interesting turns of the story. Unfortunately, as much as I appreciated the first, the second fell short from my point of view. Again it is the perspective nudging at me and also the fact that I believe the second twist has more to do with the soul than the body, which seems not to be the case here.

“It’s My Job” (Es mi trabajo) by Sergio Mars – The village’s gravedigger is called to attend the latest deceased, but some dead put him to harder work than others. It is not the most memorable way to bring this anthology to a close, but “It’s My Job” matches in tone some of the feelings associated to final departures. The sadness of a loss, the difficulty of accepting a destiny that awaits us all, seen from both points of view, are interesting aspects of Sergio Mars’ story. Like I said, not the most memorable story of the collection, but quite fitted for its end.

“Pumpkins in the Closet – Burials” is not an anthology where every story is a hit, but it has the merit of avoiding most of the pitfalls of its theme. With plenty of original tales, several strong writers and a couple of memorable stories “Pumpkins in the Closet – Burials” is a collection worth reading.