Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Received: The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

Just the other day I received in the mail a complimentary copy of Charles Stross's The Delirium Brief from UK publisher Orbit. That's the Orbit cover pictured to the left.

The Delirium Brief is volume 8 in the Laundry Files -- and I have had the extreme pleasure (actually, an honor) of working on all eight volumes. The book will be published this month in both the U.K. and in the U.S. (Tor.com; cover pictured below). I sometimes find it difficult to believe that I began work on the first Laundry Files book in late 2001, and now, eight volumes later, I'm halfway through the year 2017....

If you are unfamiliar with the Laundry Files series -- or you haven't read all seven previous volumes -- and you'd like to jump right in on this new volume, then you'll need to do a bit of catch-up reading first. Begin by reading my blog post of January 9, 2017, in which I write about my work on The Delirium Brief, and provide some background on the volume, a few mini (very mini) spoilers (necessary), and let you know what you will need to read specifically to catch up.

But back to the book at hand. What was even more special than just receiving a copy of the book was the included note (following) from Joanna Kramer, Managing Editor at Orbit. I know I do a damn good job on all the books I work on, but I'll always -- always -- appreciate receiving kudos from those responsible for hiring me in the first place. So, once again, thank you, Ms. Kramer, for your kind words.


Figuring that possibly my own writing isn't sufficient to whet your appetite for a new reading experience, I try to include an appropriate book review in some of my blog posts. So, here is the May 2, 2017, Kirkus review:

The Delirium Brief
THE DELIRIUM BRIEF
From the "Laundry Files" series, volume 8
by Charles Stross

Stross' Laundry Files series, of which this is No. 8 (The Nightmare Stacks, 2016, etc.), is a weird but effective mashup of Lovecraft-ian horror, espionage thriller, science fiction, and satire, centering around a top-secret British government agency devoted to fighting "the sort of thing you expect to meet in an episode of The X-Files."

In resolving the previous book's crisis, unfortunately, the Laundry's existence becomes public knowledge, so this time out combat sorcerer Bob Howard, the Eater of Souls, must appear on TV to offer the usual blandishments. Poor Bob and his equally scary wife, the newly minted auditor, Mo O'Brien, can't live together—her demonic White Violin tried to eat him, while Bob worries that he might absentmindedly eat Mo's soul while sleepwalking. As a senior member of staff, though, Bob no longer has to worry about his expense sheets. But an evil god from another dimension is moving to take over the American government, whose about-to-be-unemployed good guys warn the Laundry that the Rev. Raymond Schiller, whose followers are deliberately parasitized and enslaved by a godlike extradimensional horror known as the Sleeper in the Pyramid, is plotting a takeover of the U.K. government. Abruptly, the Laundry's staffers learn that their agency has been privatized and they're all out of a job. To combat Schiller, Bob will need his most powerful allies, freelance witch Persephone "Seph" Hazard, otherworld elf-queen Cassie Brewer, and Senior Auditor Armstrong. Series regulars will find the usual humor here much reduced, with a narrative cluttered with infodumps on civil service bureaucracy, while the tone has turned bleaker and far darker. There's little need to point out the obvious political aspects to all this. Some readers may not relish the new direction the series is taking, while others will ponder the underlying currents and conclude that it all makes perfect sense.

Stross still spins a heck of a yarn.

The Delirium Brief will be published next week, and is available from Amazon or your bookseller of choice.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Today we celebrate our independence day!"

Tonight my wife and I will partake in our annual July 4 guilty pleasure: watching the 1996 movie Independence Day (ID4), while the neighborhood's illegal fireworks provide the incessant background explosions. The movie stars Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore, Will Smith as Marine Captain Steven Hiller, and Jeff Goldblum as MIT-educated computer hacker David Levinson.

Here is the speech the president gives prior to the attack on the alien ship in ID4:
Good morning. Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can't be consumed by our petty differences any more.

We will be united in our common interest.

Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:
"We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on, we're going to survive."
Today we celebrate our independence day!

—President Thomas J. Whitmore
    July 4th, 1996




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia: Sidewise Award Finalist

Pirate UtopiaFrom the Awards' website: "The Sidewise Awards have been presented annually since 1995 to recognize excellence in alternate historical fiction." This year, Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia is among the six finalists in the Best Short-Form Alternate History category.[1] The award winners will be announced on August 20, 2017.

Fortunately, Pirate Utopia is still available in hardcover, which is a must-see format for the period-specific (and quite marvelous) illustrations by John Coulthart. I've posted some of these illos in my blog posts of June 14, 2016, and July 14, 2016. Keep in mind these few illustrations are only a sampling, but hopefully enough to give you a taste of what's included in the book. (And let's not forget that the book also includes an enlightening 1,000-plus-word essay entitled "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design" from the illustrator himself.)

But getting back to the story itself, imagine that Harry Houdini, Howard Lovecraft, and Robert “Bob” Ervin Howard are members of a United States Secret Service delegation to the Republic of Carno in September 1920. Remember, this is an alternate history story! You can read more about Pirate Utopia's "Cast of Characters" in my June 10, 2016, blog post, in which I wrote about my initial work on this novella.

And in addition to the *starred* Publishers Weekly review I posted on October 6, 2016, here's the *starred* Kirkus review:

PIRATE UTOPIA
by Bruce Sterling; illustrated by John Coulthart
Noted sci-fi maven and futurologist Sterling (Love Is Strange, 2012, etc.) takes a side turn in the slipstream in this offbeat, sometimes-puzzling work of dieselpunk-y alternative history.

Resident in Turin, hometown of Calvino, for a dozen years, Sterling has long been experimenting with what the Italians call fantascienza, a mashup of history and speculation that's not quite science fiction but is kin to it. Take, for example, the fact that Harry Houdini once worked for the Secret Service, add to it the fact that H. P. Lovecraft once worked for Houdini, and ecco: why not posit Lovecraft as a particularly American kind of spook, "not that old-fashioned, cloak-and-dagger, European style of spy," who trundles out to Fiume to see what's what in the birthplace of Italian futurism-turned-fascism? Lovecraft is just one of the historical figures who flits across Sterling's pages, which bear suitably futuristic artwork, quite wonderful, by British illustrator John Coulthart. Among the others are Woodrow Wilson and Adolf Hitler, to say nothing of Gabriele D'Annunzio and Benito Mussolini. "Seen from upstream, most previous times seem mad," notes graphic novelist Warren Ellis in a brief introduction, but the Futurist project seems particularly nutty from this distance; personified by Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of World War I who leads the outlaw coalition called the Strike of the Hand Committee in the "pirate utopia" of the soi disant Republic of Carnaro, its first task is to build some torpedoes and then turn them into "radio-controlled, airborne Futurist torpedoes," not the easiest thing considering the technological limitations of the time. A leader of the "Desperates," who "came from anywhere where life was hard, but honor was still bright," Secondari and The Prophet—D'Annunzio, that is—recognize no such limitations and discard anything that doesn't push toward the future. So why not a flying pontoon boat with which to sail off to Chicago, and why not a partnership with Houdini to combat world communism?

A kind of Ragtime for our time: provocative, exotic, and very entertaining.

Pirate Utopia is available direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, as well as Amazon.com, or your bookseller of choice.


---------------
Footnotes

[1] The Sidewise Awards website has a complete list of the 2017 award finalists.

Abraham Lincoln Quote

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lavie Tidhar's Central Station Wins the John W. Campbell Award

New Central StationIn a May 3 blog post, I announced that Lavie Tidhar's novel Central Station was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (the winner to be announced in the U.K. on July 27).

And today I'm pleased to announce that Central Station has won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel of the year.[1]  The award was presented during the Campbell Conference, on June 16-18, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The Campbell Conference is an annual weekend event focusing on "discussions about the writing, illustration, publishing, teaching, and criticism of science fiction."

I worked on Central Station back in 2015, and wrote about it in my November 30 blog post. And in my book received post on May 6, 2016, I included some thoughts from the author himself when he announced the sale of Central Station to Tachyon Publications. Between these three blog posts of mine, you can read commentary from the author Lavie Tidhar, excerpts from the book itself, and starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

Central Station is currently available direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, as well as Amazon.com, or your bookseller of choice.

---------------
Footnotes

[1] The John W. Campbell Memorial Award website has a complete list of the 2017 award finalists.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Demon Spawn: The Painters From Hell

On May 16, I posted a couple pics of our dining room "under construction," as it were. The painting was to have taken a week to ten days; unfortunately, the project took a full two weeks -- maybe because the painters had to redo so much of their work, which is surprising since they were only working in two rooms, a very small entrance way, and a hallway. Of course, some things got five coats of paint! Why five coats, you may ask? Because after the bookcases were primered (one coat), they painted them two coats the wrong color, and had to repaint them an additional two coats the correct color once my wife and I discovered the error.

I was going to do an entire blog post -- with photos -- as a way of flushing all this crap out of my system, but the wife said let it go, it's not worth it. (She, who told the company she never wants one of their painters to ever set foot in our house again -- so all the repair and touch up work we had -- and still have -- to do is on us, along with the help of our handyman, at a cost, of course.)

The dust generated from spray painting the ceiling was so intense that it set off our smoke alarms. We had dust and white spray paint everywhere! Even in rooms in which the painters never set foot! After these yahoos left, we had to scrape every window in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance way with razor blades to remove the spray. My wife, bless her heart, spent three hours scrubbing the white spray off the fireplace bricks with a bloody toothbrush to get in amongst all the nooks and crannies in the brick. And let's not forget the three hours cleaning the two sets of full-window blinds from the dining room, slat by bloody slat, because the brainless painters left them lying on the floor to inherit all the dust they generated during the spray painting. I could go on, and on (and on), but the wife said, "Let it go." But, oh, it's so hard....

Here's a typical photo of the quality of the work: this is one of the pieces of hardware for the living room curtain rods. Note the care with which they masked the hardware; the care with which they removed the surrounding wallpaper; the care with which they "prepped" the wall for the paint. This, by the way, is the finished work. My wife and I had to take a box cutter and cut around the hardware, scrape away all the wallpaper and crap they didn't remove, prep the wall correctly, and then paint it. The hardware in the dining room was so completely covered with paint that we simply purchased new hardware and replaced it all.

This is one of the painted doors left in their wake: when they removed the blue tape, the tape took off much of the paint, clear down to the old color. But, hey, it's on the inside, nobody will see it -- until they open the bloody door! We fixed it as part of the cleanup and repair. Oh, and note the color of the floor in the background: this is (or was) bare concrete because the carpeting had been removed prior to the the arrival of the painters. I guess since nothing was on the floor, and it would eventually get covered with new carpeting, who cared that the concrete was now splashed with white paint!

Ah, but life is short, and tomorrow, hopefully, we'll finish up the last of the painting fixes and touch ups.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First Ever TED Talk on the Culture of Record Digging






This TED Talk video on record digging (aka crate digging) was brought to my attention via The Vinyl Factory's news blog. The video lasts just under 16 minutes. If you have any interest in music/music appreciation (and vinyl in particular), or music preservation, or cultural anthropology, or a combination there of, you'll want to set aside some time for this TED Talk.

There's No Place Like Home

If you're wondering why I have been fairly quiet blogwise, the pics below should help to explain... This is the living room in my house, just one of the rooms undergoing what I would call a demolition derby. (Through the large window, you can see my wife hanging out in the backyard.)

Carpeting has already been removed (which has allowed the painters to drop voluminous amounts of paint on the bare concrete out of carelessness -- but fortunately it won't matter as it will be covered up eventually with new carpeting).

The two brown shelf units, leaning against each respective wall, were originally mounted in each corner of the room, to the left and right of the window. Those brown bookcases now have a white primer, and will eventually be painted "bone" to match -- and blend in with -- the walls.





The painting should be completed by the end of this week. And then the real fun begins... Clean up, clean up, everybody (my wife and I!) clean up!

We'll need to have the air ducts cleaned first: long story, but the dust from spraying the ceiling got so thick that it set off our smoke alarm and I had to have a nice chat with our alarm monitoring service. Then a complete dusting of all the furniture including having the living room drapes cleaned (you can't see them, but that's one of the lumps underneath the plastic that is covering our couches). After the ducts are cleaned and the furniture dusted, I'll rent a shop vac to clean the floors of said dust and bits of wallpaper and blue tape and other unknown debris....

Then, finally, the new carpeting and flooring can be installed -- hopefully before the onset of winter and the rainy season!

Then, we get to move all the smaller furniture and books and stuff (lots of "stuff") back into the rooms that have been stored these past two weeks (so far) in the bedrooms. After which, I plan to collapse....


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lavie Tidhar's Central Station: Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist

New Central StationThe Arthur C. Clarke Award has announced the nominees for 2017, and I was pleased to see that Central Station by Lavie Tidhar had made the shortlist.[1]

The Clarke Award lists the publisher as PS Publishing: since the award is a British award, the book must be published in the UK -- which it was, by PS Publishing, in a 100-copy signed and numbered limited edition with a sticker price of nearly $100.00. Of course, the trade paperback edition was originally published in the US by Tachyon Publications, and is available for a mere $15.95 (and much less when on sale, like right now!) from Amazon and elsewhere.

I worked on Central Station back in 2015, and wrote about it in my November 30 blog post. At that time the cover art had yet to be finalized. The final cover art, by Sarah Anne Langton, was showcased in my Book Received blog post on May 6, 2016. And just a couple weeks ago, on April 16, the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards were presented at Innominate, the 68th Eastercon, and Ms. Langton won for Best Artwork for the Central Station cover art.

As I wrote on November 30, 2015: "Central Station delivers a complex, idiosyncratic story, with multiple story lines and multiple points of view: robo-priests, strigoi (data-vampires), robotniks (cyborg ex-Israeli soldiers), enhanced humans, revolutionaries, space colonies -- and weaving through it all, flows the Conversation, the stream of consciousness that connects everyone and everything."

Here are a couple starred reviews to pique your interest (if it's still necessary at this point):
World Fantasy Award–winner Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming) magnificently blends literary and speculative elements in this streetwise mosaic novel set under the towering titular spaceport. In a future border town formed between Israeli Tel Aviv and Arab Jaffa, cyborg ex-soldiers deliver illicit drugs for psychic vampires, and robot priests give sermons and conduct circumcisions. The Chong family struggles to save patriarch Vlad, lost in the inescapable memory stream they all share, thanks to his father's hack of the Conversation, the collective unconscious. New children, born from back-alley genetic engineering, begin to experience actual and virtual reality simultaneously. Family and faith bring them all back and sustain them. Tidhar gleefully mixes classic SF concepts with prose styles and concepts that recall the best of world literature. The byways of Central Station ring with dusty life, like the bruising, bustling Cairo streets depicted by Naguib Mahfouz. Characters wrestle with problems of identity forged under systems of oppression, much as displaced Easterners and Westerners do in the novels of Orhan Pamuk. And yet this is unmistakably SF. Readers of all persuasions will be entranced.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
. . . a fascinating future glimpsed through the lens of a tight-knit community. Verdict: Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming; The Violent Century) changes genres with every outing, but his astounding talents guarantee something new and compelling no matter the story he tells.
Library Journal, starred review

The winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award will be announced at a public award ceremony held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Central Station is currently available direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, as well as Amazon.com, or your bookseller of choice.

---------------
Footnotes

[1] The Arthur C. Clarke Award website has a complete list of the 2017 award nominees.


Monday, May 1, 2017

John Langan's The Fisherman Wins the Bram Stoker Award

The FishermanIn my July 19, 2016, blog post, in which I wrote of my work on John Langan's novel The Fisherman, I said -- and I quote -- "...there is no reason for any hesitation whatsoever to purchase a copy of this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year."

And here we are, in the "next year," and The Fisherman has won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel, which was presented at StokerCon 2017 by the Horror Writers Association.[1]

Matt E. Lewis, on Horror Talk, reviews The Fisherman; I'm including a small excerpt but do check out the full review:
This novel is, without a doubt, the most beautiful I've read all year. In the beginning it's obvious to see the influence of greats like Melville in Langan's writing — in fact, this entire book might be viewed as a twisted spiritual cousin of Moby Dick. But thankfully it isn't exactly like that. Langan borrows from an omnivorous assortment of fiction writers, at times incorporating aquatic abominations that could have sprung from Lovecraft's darkest nightmares, to a hodgepodge of references to the lore from throughout time and cultures....The pacing of the story is consistent, page-turning, on par with the bestsellers of Stephen King. The exposition is shared sparingly, like a heady scent on the wind that only just registers before it's swept away.

But the most important aspect of the book is the all too relatable grief of the characters. It is the anchor that firmly lodges in the heart of the reader, reminding us that true horror does not simply spring from gross-outs and jump-scares, but the darkness of the human soul, the meeting of our primal emotions and our accursed hyper-intelligence....

In addition to the July 19 blog post mentioned above, I had posted on February 23, 2017, that The Fisherman was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. That blog post also included an excerpt from the New York Times Book Review by Terrence Rafferty. So if you're still not convinced that you need this book in your library, read the NYT review of The Fisherman -- and then hit up your fave bookseller and buy this book!

--------------
Footnotes:

[1] The Horror Writers Association website has a complete list of all the Bram Stoker Award winners.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Robert M. Pirsig (September 6, 1928 – April 24, 2017)

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, 'Go away, I'm looking for the truth,' and so it goes away. Puzzling." —Robert M. Pirsig



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

$1.99 For The Alien Contact Ebook [Ended]

Alien Contact ebookI don't know how long this offer will be available: the ebook edition of my Alien Contact anthology is currently on sale for $1.99.

The $1.99 price is for either the mobi (Kindle) or the epub (Nook) edition of the book. If you haven't already done so, now is your chance to read 170,000 words of some of the best alien contact stories for a buck-99, all between the virtual covers of a single ebook.

Just click the Alien Contact ebook cover to the left to make your way to Amazon. For the epub edition, click this Nook book link.

One caveat: The ebook editions do not contain the Stephen King story "I Am the Doorway."

For more information on my Alien Contact anthology, please visit the dedicated Alien Contact page, which includes behind-the-scenes blog posts and links to the complete text of about a dozen of the stories.


Friday, March 3, 2017

The Austin 100 Playlist


"Every year, the SXSW [South by Southwest] Music Festival serves a daunting, days-long feast of sounds from around the world. And once again, NPR Music's Austin 100 is here to distill it all down to a digestible meal of music discovery.

Picked from a playlist that spanned more than a hundred hours, these 100 songs represent a broad and exciting cross-section of SXSW's many highlights...."

If you click on the NPR link above, you'll find yourself on a web page containing the "Austin 100 Playlist" -- some of the best new music to be showcased at the South by Southwest Music Festival to be held March 13-17, 2017.

The NPR web page provides three ways in which you can listen to the entire playlist:
  1. You can stream the songs via the "NPR One" app; a link is provided to download the app from Amazon, Google Play, the App Store, and Microsoft.
  2. You can download each individual song on the web page; or use the provided link to grab the 900MB zip file containing all 100 songs. Downloads expire on March 31.
  3. And lastly, if you are a Spotify user, use the provided link to pull up the "Austin 100 Playlist."

Personally, I'd prefer vinyl, but then again, 100 songs -- let's say an average of three and a half minutes per song -- would work out to at least nine LPs! Much easier to tote around a 900MB zip file!

Enjoy the tunes....


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Philip K. Dick on Reality

...today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups.... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing....

—Philip K. Dick

From a 1978 speech entitled "How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later." Included in the anthology The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, edited by Lawrence Sutin (Pantheon, 1995).


Monday, February 27, 2017

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

The Forgotten Beasts of EldAs I continue to catch up on my belated blog posts....

My most recent project was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip, forthcoming in September from Tachyon Publications.

I'll admit that I had not read this book previously (it was originally published in 1974), and to my delight, the story had me intrigued from the very beginning. Which seems to be the overall consensus from the many reviews I have read since completing work on this project.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld has the honor of winning the very first World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, presented in 1975 at the first World Fantasy Convention, held in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of H. P. Lovecraft.

This is one project that I wanted to keep working on, and working on...not to be done with the project itself, but to find out what came next in the story. And as noted in one of the reviews I read, the prose is so seductive that I had to keep reminding myself that this is work!

Here are some mini excerpts from a few of those reviews I read, with links to the full reviews (and doing my best not to reveal too many spoilers):

I admit it: I have been seduced by Patricia A McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, ...the latest in my trawl through fantasy champions of days gone by. Gorgeous, lyrical prose, a story that is more than just a linear journey from one drama to another, and a three-dimensional female character: it feels a million miles away from my manful slogs through Michael Moorcock's Corum trilogy, and Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga.
...
I think I've fallen for this book because it's so different to what I was expecting: a cool drink of water in the midst of the overwrought, derivative, under-edited and overwritten tomes that dominate much of fantasy today – and, judging from my excursions into Corum and Kraki, did in the past as well.
—Alison Flood, The Guardian Books Blog

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a gorgeously told tale of love and the human cost of war and revenge. It has a love of riddles, inventive magical beasts, and a well-drawn cast of believable characters with a strong, engaging female protagonist. However what truly elevates the book is Patricia A. McKillip's poetic language. Her command of striking imagery and finely balanced phrases places The Forgotten Beasts of Eld in another category altogether, ...a high Fantasy that almost qualifies as a prose poem.
...
The complexity of the book's view of love, as something that ties the couple together but that can also be twisted and subverted into something damaging and ugly, is refreshing. In the end it is not just their love that pulls Coren and Sybel back from the brink, but knowledge, wisdom and self-awareness. Both Coren and Sybel, having looked into themselves, can see something of Drede in themselves, a man who let his feelings for his wife be twisted into something unpleasant and destructive by his fear and jealousy. Coren and Sybel first have to reject their own destructive, violent impulses, before they can return to each other purified....
worldswithoutend.com

There is a sense of antiquity about this book -- and by that I don't mean dusty obsolescence and a sliding into oblivion. On the contrary, this is one of those shining complex things that our ancestors seemed to find it easy to do and that we have somehow forgotten in the rush and spin of our modern days -- this has the feel to it of a tale that has come down from some ancient dawn, a day long gone, but it is bright with the ancient magic and it feels ageless, eternal...
...
There are fantasy tropes aplenty in this book -- animals that never were and that you wish could have been, cold sorcery, human drama involving inheritances and betrayals and wise enchantresses, lost prince-heirs, and much else besides. McKillip weaves them with the light touch of her own magic. It might all sound kind of recognisable, even familiar -- there are dozens and dozens of fantasy tales involving talking beasts and dragons and human wars and romances -- but somehow, here, you feel like you're drinking it from the source.
—Alma A. Hromic, SF Site


The Forgotten Beasts of Eld will be published in September and is now available for preorder directly from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or from Amazon.com, or your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

John Langan's The Fisherman: Bram Stoker Award Finalist

The FishermanWhen I first wrote of The Fisherman in my July 19, 2016, blog post, I said (and I quote): "...this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year."

And here it is, next year, and the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards has just been announced by the Horror Writers Association -- and The Fisherman by John Langan is one of five finalists for the award for "Superior Achievement in a Novel."

I am not surprised that a story (actually, a story within a story) such as this has been recognized by the HWA members and awards jury.

Here's an excerpt from The New York Times Book Review by Terrence Rafferty on October 26, 2016:
In his superb new novel THE FISHERMAN (Word Horde, paper, $16.99), John Langan also manages to sustain the focused effect of a short story or a poem over the course of a long horror narrative, and it's an especially remarkable feat because this is a novel that goes back and forth in time, alternates lengthy stretches of calm with extended passages of vigorous and complex action, and features a very, very large monster. Like Robert Aickman, Langan is a short story writer by inclination; The Fisherman is only his second novel, and this one took him over a dozen years to finish.
...
The Fisherman is unusually dense with ideas and images, and, with the tale heard in the diner taking up the middle third of the book, it's oddly constructed. But there's a beauty in its ungainliness. Langan writes elegant prose, and the novel's rolling, unpredictable flow has a distinctive rhythm, the rise and fall of its characters' real grief. These fishermen are restless men, immobilized but never truly at peace. Again and again, they cast their lines in the hope of catching something, anything, that will restore them to who they were. Abe characterizes himself as "desperate for any chance to recover what I'd lost, no matter what I had to look past to do so," and you feel that sad urgency on every page of his strange and terrifying and impossible story.

Langan's novel wears its heart on its sleeve.

The Fisherman is available direct from publisher Word Horde, in a $16.99 bundle that includes a signed bookplate and the ebook in your choice of format, or from Amazon, or from your bookseller of choice.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow

[Added 02/05/2017: Expect to see this novella on many awards' short lists come 2018....]

I have been quite fortunate to have worked on not just one, not two, but three novellas by James Morrow that have been -- or will be -- published by Tachyon Publications. The first of these, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, was published in 2009.

The second, The Madonna and the Starship, published in 2014, was the focus of my blog post of November 24, 2013, in which I wrote of my work on this novella.

In that blog post I stated (and I quote): "James Morrow is an absolute master of the sardonic..." -- and with The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, his third novella from Tachyon, due to be published in June, James Morrow does not disappoint.

Here is the ad copy for the book:
The infamous Dr. Caligari: psychiatrist or psychopath? In this wry and satiric tour de force, award-winning author James Morrow offers a surprising and provocative take on a silent film classic.

In the summer of 1914, the world teeters on the brink of the Great War. An American painter, Francis Wyndham, is hired to provide art therapy at a renowned European asylum, working under the auspices of its mysterious director, Alessandro Caligari. Francis is soon beguiled by his most talented student, Ilona Wessels, whose genius with a brush is matched only by the erotic intensity of her madness.

Deep in his secret studio, Dr. Caligari, rumored to be a sorcerer, struggles to create Ecstatic Wisdom, an immense painting so hypnotic it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle. Once Francis and Ilona grasp Caligari's scheme in all its supernatural audacity, they conspire to defeat him with a magical work of their own....

The story is all about a painting -- Ecstatic Wisdom (well, actually two paintings, but you'll have to read the story to learn about the other) -- and its effect on the viewer, or viewers, as they came in regimental numbers to view the painting(s).

Here's a brief excerpt from the story itself: Francis Wyndham is clandestinely observing Dr. Caligari at work on his painting:
Watching Caligari suffuse his canvas with whatever species of wizardry or variety of delusion possessed him, I decided his methods represented neither imagination abandoned by intellect, nor revelation tempered by logic, but a third phenomenon. He had beguiled both forces into a condition of mutual betrayal, reason convincing fantasy that violent monsters were desirable, fantasy coercing reason into abandoning its tedious allegiance to facts.

"Effundam spiritum meum in vobis, virtutibus! Perfectus es!"

Now he began spinning in circles—like a deranged dancer, or a whirling dervish, or a man inhabited by devils....

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari will be published in June and is now available for preorder directly from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or from Amazon.com, or your friendly neighborhood bookseller.