Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazing Stories Trademark Bought

Steve Davidson (Crotchety Old Fan) has acquired the trademark to Amazing Stories.  He is looking at relaunching the magazine online with containing new and reprint stories with a strong social networking component.  You can read his press release here.  There are further updates here and here.  The website for the magazine is up and is  There's not much there yet, but check back frequently.  I used to pick up Amazing Stories regularly and am thrilled it will be coming back.  Thanks, Steve, and best of luck. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

RIP Sara Douglass

Locus Online is reporting that fantasy author Sara Warneke (1957-2011), who wrote as Sara Douglass has died of ovarian cancer at the age of 54.  Warneke was diagnosed in 2010.  She lived in Tasmania and was a multiple winner of Australia's Aurealis Award (Starman (2006), Enchanter (2006), and The Wounded Hawk (2001)). 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can't say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn't make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don't like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I'll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

What I've Been Up to Lately

I've not posted much lately, certainly not as much as I'd like.  Last week was not one of the best I've ever had, which contributed.  The less said about that, the better.  I'll just say that my reading and blogging rate decreased noticeably for a few days.
Anyway, I've got a few more novels I'm committed to review.  I've started the sequel to Wolfsangel.  I hope to have that posted within the next week to ten days.  I have a deadline on a personal writing project at the end of the week, so that will slow down the reading and blogging somewhat.

I spent the weekend at Fencon and should have a report on that up tomorrow.  Then there's another Conan post.  After that, more novel reviews, with reviews of shorter pieces and maybe some opinions mixed in. 

And as soon as I get my hands on the new Jasper Kent novel (volume 3 of the Danilov Quintet), that will move to the top of the reading stack.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Darkness Falling, A Review of Peter Crowther's Latest Novel

Darkness Falling
Peter Crowther
Angry Robot Books
US/Canada 27 Sep 2011
400 pp trade paperback $12.99 US/ $14.99 Canada
UK 6 Oct 2011
464 pp B-format paperback    L7.99
ebook 27 Sep 2011 L4.99/$5.99

As and editor and publisher, Peter Crowther has few peers.  His accomplishments in these fields have overshadowed his work as a writer.  He tends to write primarily in the horror genre, and this latest novel is no exception.

The publisher classifies it as science fiction on the book's webpage, and I have no argument with that designation.  However, I've chosen to review it here rather than on Futures Past and Present, my science fiction blog, because as a scientist I'm a little skeptical about some of the things that happen.  Since Angry Robot classified Roil as a fantasy and I reviewed it as science fiction (which I maintain it is), I figure this just evens things out.

With Halloween approaching, this book fits the season well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Charles Gramlich at Home of Heroics

I was hoping to post a review tonight of the novel I'm currently reading.  Ain't gonna happen.  Tomorrow don't look promisin' neither. 

Instead, please allow me to point you to Charles Gramlich's post over at Home of Heroics.  It's the first of two parts, discussing the various subgenres of fantasy.  Featured are sword and sorcery and sword and planet, two of my favorite categories.  If you haven't read the post (and I know some of you have because you've commented), check it out.  I found the names of a couple of new authors I need to track down.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Review Posted at Futures Past and Present

I've posted a review of Roil by Trent Jamieson at Futures Past and Present.  Some of you might be interested in this one.  It's one of those far future settings that reads like fantasy.  It's closer to science fiction than fantasy in my mind, so I decided to post it there but wanted to make you aware of it in case you like this sort of book.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Barbarism at Home of Heroics

I'm trying to finish a novel I've committed to review (one down, four to go), so I thought I'd point you to an essay that went up a few minutes ago over to Home of Heorics:  " 'Barbarian' - Good or Bad?" by Werner A. Lind.  It's a well thought-out examination of barbarism contrasted with civilization.  If you're a fan of Robert E. Howard, you'll want to read it.

As soon as I get this review done (which I will probably post at Futures Past and Present since it's more science fiction than fantasy but will include a link here), I'll look at a couple of items of short fiction.  In the meantime, check out what Werner has to say.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11: Never Forget

I had the honor and privilege of baptizing my son this morning.  Given what baptism symbolizes, I couldn't think of a better day of the year on which to do it.  Others have written more eloquently about today's anniversary than I ever could.  Read Sarah Hoyt's post for well said words.  Instead of writing something, I decided to post some photos of the flag tribute here in town.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ghosts, Conspiracies, and a Smoking Hot Deacon

Philippa Ballantine
Ace, 294 p., $7.99

That should probably be "deaconess" in the title of this post, but since both male and female holders of that office go by the title of "deacon" in Geist, I'll stick with Ms. Ballantine's convention.  Regardless of details of semantics, this was a thoroughly enjoyable novel.  It's not the author's first, but it was the first one of hers I've read.  It won't be the last. 

The geists of the title are beings from the Otherside, sort a spirit world, and "geist" is something of a catchall term that could encompass a number of different entities.  They are usually pretty destructive.  They can be a form of ghost or some other malignant being.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Year Two, Day One

Although it doesn't seem like it, it's been exactly one year since I started this blog.  I've learned a lot, not least of which is how much I still have to learn.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who follows my posts, whether formally, with your picture there in the sidebar, or informally, checking in when you have a free moment.  While I haven't met most of you in the flesh, I still consider those of you who have commented, and at times corrected my errors, friends.  If we find ourselves at a convention or Howard Days or some other venue together, let's make sure we make time for a drink or two.

I've got some things planned for this next year in addition to the ongoing series such as the posts about Conan, to give one example. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Regarding a Movie About a Barbarian Seeking to Avenge the Murder of His Family

I saw a movie over the Labor Day weekend.  It might be of interest to some of you.  The movie was filmed somewhere in Eastern Europe, and the scenery, particularly of the mountains, is gorgeous.

The storyline goes something like this.  There's this young boy in a tribal village and these raiders swoop down and kill everyone, except this boy, who is the only one to survive.  He watches his friends and family killed.  The leader of the raiders takes a sword that the boy's father has made.

After he grows up, the boy, now a mighty fighter, goes looking for the man who killed his family.  To pass the time until he finds him, he has a hobby of freeing slaves.  Eventually he finds the man who killed his family.  This man now has a grotesque mask and he's seeking a particular young woman who is descended from a line of kings.  He needs her blood perform this ritual in which he raises this dark sorceress or goddess or something.  The barbarian is protecting her, but she gets kidnapped by the villain.  There's a final fight in a citadel and the villain has the princess chained in a spread eagle position to perform the ritual, and there's this fight on this bridge over a chasm, and...

...and the name of this barbarian...just in case you were wondering, isn't "Conan".

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Decided not to Review the August 2011 Issue of Realms of Fantasy

I was out of town on Monday for a job interview.  Since I had some time between the interview and having to return to the very small airport I was flying out of, I decided to visit some of the local bookstores.  Without adult supervision, of course.  (My suitcase was noticeably heavier on the return flight.)  One of the things I picked up was a copy of the August issue of Realms of Fantasy, which wasn't yet on the stands where I live. 

I read part of it on the plane, and then finished it after I got home.  I was rather disappointed.  Approximately half of the magazine was devoted to fiction.  No huge surprise there.  RoF is a publication dedicated to all aspects of the genre, so the columns and reviews don't bother me.  Not all of them interest me, but I don't begrudge others the chance to read them.  And the art feature is usually worth a look and frequently a second look.  But these things alone are not why I pick up the magazine.  I buy it for the fiction.

There were five stories.  I have to admit by and large they were a let down.  Only one of them completely worked for me, and it was really more science fiction than fantasy. (Any story that opens by trashing It's a Wonderful Life is one I'm going to be predisposed to like.)   W. R. Thompson, whose work I've enjoyed in Analog for years, had a deal-with-the-devil story that started out promising, with wit and humor, but ultimately left me unsatisfied.  I found the mechanism by which the narrator got out of the deal to be a cop-out.  The story following it, a retelling of the Biblical story of Lot, with Lilith thrown in for good measure, contained many of the ideas and themes the Thompson story did.  Since these two pieces together constituted almost half the fiction, I thought this was a bit too much of the same thing, a feeling not dissimilar to the one I've gotten at the movies after I've gone back for the free refill on the large buttered popcorn.  I should've stopped after the first.

So rather than give a breakdown of the contents and what I thought of each individual story, what worked and what didn't, like in my two previous reviews, I'll just pass this time.  None the stories were poorly written.  In fact, the way the words were put together in this issue constituted some of the best writing I've seen in the magazine, from a technical perspective.  For the most part, there was better emphasis on characters and story rather than pretty words than in the previous issue.  It's just that most of the stories really weren't the type of thing I'm interested in reading.  Only the riff on Lot could really be considered adventure fantasy, and I didn't care that much for some of the themes, in part because they were so similar to the previous story. And while I like other kinds of fantasy besides sword and sorcery and adventure fantasy, most of the selections in this issue really didn't work for me.  Well written pieces, but not my cup of tea.  Which is why I decided not to review the issue.  I don't see any point in doing what would essentially be trashing the magazine because the stories weren't to my taste. If they had been poorly written or had protagonists who weren't believable as characters, I would have a different attitude.

I write these reviews in part to recommend things I think my readers will like.  That's tough to do when I didn't care for most of the stories solely on the grounds of personal taste. 

On the positive side, the price has come down without any decrease in production values, a move that is appreciated.  I suspect this is a move to increase sales.  I hope it works.  Now if I could just get an electronic version in epub format.  There was an ad saying it was available, but the website only shows pdf versions of the current issues.