Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday miscellany

I have some tid-bits for you all this fine (rainy here) Friday.

I heard on David Brin's blog that Worldcon in Reno (Renovation) is offering a college credit course on teaching science fiction! How awesome is that?

2010 Nebula awards, presented on May 21st went to the following:

Connie Willis for Blackout/All Clear (Spectra)

Rachel Swirsky for "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" (Subterranean, Summer 2010)

Eric James Stone for "That Leviathan, WHom Thou Has Made" (Analog Sept. 2010)

Short Story
Looks like there's two winners! Kij Johnson's "Ponies" ( 1/17/10) tied with Harlan Ellison's "How Interesting: A Tiny Man" (Realms of Fantasy 2/10)

Ray Bradbury Award

Andre Norton Award
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Prathett (Doubleday; Harper)

How fun is this? A primer for relating to a sf/f geek can be found over at Author's Echo. Make sure to add your two cents!

Here's an eye-opening article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch for my writer-readers out there. We keep hearing how the publishing world is changing. After a while, we tune it out and figure it will right itself eventually or we'll dip a toe here and there into the new paradigm and see how it goes. Well, it's not going away and we need to get with the program I guess.

Now let's peek at movies:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Untold Chronicles could be told better

The Untold Chronicles, Book One
Everdance: A Blood Story
Geo Brawn IV (writer/illustrator)
Brawn Graphix Design Creation, February 2011

Reviewed by Lyda Morehouse

If you’re intrigued by morally-ambiguous vigilante characters like Showtime’s serial killer antihero “Dexter,” The Untold Chronicles is a graphic novel for you. On the surface, Kate Bennet appears to be a mild-mannered kid lit author, but, in reality, she’s a blood-thirsty vampire in desperate need of a mentor. Her vampire husband died leaving Kate unable to fend for herself. Luckily, she meets the queen of demons and mother of all vampires, Lilith, who relishes taking Kate under her wing, as it were.

In the course of the graphic novel, the reader is also treated to the history of Lilith. As she tells her story for Kate to write as a new book, we see how Lilith went from being the first wife of Adam to Lucifer’s lover. Having written extensively myself about Lilith and Satan, I found those sections particularly interesting.

The only thing that mars this collection is the artwork. It’s very uneven. Individual panels can be quite well-rendered only to be followed by very sketchy or blurry ones. Unfortunately, that’s true for the lettering as well, which makes the book, literally, difficult to read.

The Untold Chronicles is a monster’s coming of age story. It’s about learning to embrace the dark and make it work for you. A very cool idea that needed better execution, alas.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Fairy Tale from ABC

It looks like ABC might have a winner with Once Upon a Time. Jennifer Morrison (Dr. Cameron from House) plays, Emma, the new arrival in Storybrooke. She soon learns that Storybrooke is actually a book of fairy tales from which there is no escape. Not only is she trapped with fairy tale characters that don't know who they once were, but she is told by her young guide, Henry, played by Jared Gilmore, that she is a character in the book herself. Henry is the child Emma gave up years before. He tells her an impossible tale that so intrigues her that she brings him back to Storybrooke to see for herself. Henry has told her that she is the long lost child of Prince Charming (Josh Dallas - CSI and Thor) and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin).

I don't think any of us outgrows fairy tales. Executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz of Lost fame, deliver an action-packed, intrigue-laced fairy tale filled with the magic and wonder we still crave. You'll recognize Robert Carlyle from Stargate Universe as Rumplestiltskin.

The show airs on ABC this fall on Sundays at 8PM, 7PM Central.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Press for Ann Wilkes and sf tidbits

Lots of sf news this week. Some of it is even about Ann Wilkes. ;)

Broad Universe, that wonderful organization I keep hawking here, has just published its May Broad Pod, which features a story written by yours truly. I read five minutes of "Immunity Project", my offering in the newly released Defending the Future IV: No Man's Land (Dark Quest Books, May 2011).

Trisha Wooldridge from A Novel Friend Writing and Editing hosts this month's collection of short readings celebrating mothers from women writing across the realm of speculative fiction.

The Broad Pod is sponsored by Broad Universe, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, honoring, and celebrating women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Find out more about our organization, including new fiction released by women, more podcasts, and information about writing and publishing for women, visit our website at

May is for mothers, and our podcast today celebrates all kinds of motherhood. Vonnie Winslow Crist shares surprising and magical consequences when a young woman mothers a baby bird back to health; Ann Wilkes' military science fiction has strange visitors chatting with a mother in her home; Roberta Gregory's people are celebrating the mother goddess; a young wizard has to rescue his mother from a terrible date in Katherine Mankiller's tale; and Suzanne Reynolds Alpert introduces us to the 16-year-old embodiment of the mother goddess Quan Yin.

Listen now.

Along that same vein, there's a DTF IV: No Man's Land book giveaway of that anthology over at Goodreads. Now would be a good time to friend me there, too. But not if you don't have any books listed. No pretenders. ;)

I am also interviewed at

That's enough about me. Now to give a little love to my friends.

First up, is my good friend and excellent writer, Juliette Wade. She has this awesome, ambitious endeavor going on at Talk To You Universe. She offers a chance for anyone to share their culture. She's compiling a sort of cultural database. A close-up and personal look at those hard to research aspects of Folklore, Religion, and Cultural Practices. It's called The Writer's International Culture Share and promises to be an excellent source for writers around the globe.

Alma Alexander, another talented writer and Broad Universe member, announces the Fall release of River, an anthology she has edited which features "a stellar selection of authors who between them have been nominated for, finalists for, or have won, practically every known industry award (including the Campbell, the Tiptree, the WFA, the Mythopoeic, and yes, even the Hugos...)."

Last, but not least, Episode 2 of the Minister of Chance is now available from the Minister of Chance site and iTunes. I listened already and enjoyed the continuing adventures of Kitty and the Minister. And there be monsters and dark and a mysterious horseman.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Geist - a complex fantasy tale

Geist: A Book of the Order
By Philippa Ballantine

Reviewed by Deirdre Murphy

Active Deacon Sorcha Faris has plenty of problems. The husband who has grown increasingly distant from her emotionally is also her Sensitive work partner, paired with her magically and metaphysically to fight the geist—unliving forces that keep trying to invade her world. For no apparent reason, geist activity is on the upswing, with more and stranger attacks suddenly appearing in a part of the world that she spent years working to make safe for humankind.

As the book opens, what should have been a boring bit of guard duty turns deadly, requiring her to call on the most dire of her powers, one that many Active Deacons never master. They win the fight, but her husband is nearly killed, and will spend months in the hospital even with the best of care.

She expects to be given leave to take care of him. Instead the Abbot calls her in with new orders from the Emperor. She is to partner with a very powerful young Sensitive, Deacon Merrick Chambers and leave immediately, quietly and with no backup, to aid a priory that’s besieged with violent geist activity. Sorcha doesn’t recognize the young man—but he recognizes her as the beautiful woman who destroyed the geist-creature that had just messily killed his father years before. Merrick covers his nervousness about being partnered to her by deliberately antagonizing her.

As if this isn’t enough to deal with, their trip to the endangered Priory is beset with danger, and before they get there, they run into geist-cursed Prince Raed of the former royal family, now known as the Pretender. Raed spends his time sailing the high seas to avoid both the Emperor and situations that could waken the murderous geist-beast that is twined into his body and soul. When increased geist activity threatens even ships on the ocean, Sorcha ends up having to worry about the curse too.

There’s plenty of action, and twists and turns to the plot that I didn’t predict. I found it harder and harder to put the book down as the plot unfolded. The ending was satisfying, though it wasn’t a “happily ever after” sort of thing. But then, this was never portrayed as a fairy-tale sort of world. The characters and the Empire they live in are complex, powerful, and imperfect—and that, along with how they face their dark enemies, is what makes them interesting.

As noted above, in the book we see hints of Sorcha’s interesting history—history with her husband, with other former partners, and, of course, fighting the spooky, dangerous geist creatures. Thinking about that while writing this review, I wondered if this might not be the first book about her (though I never felt like I should to have read a prior story to fully understand this one). A quick web-search did not turn up any earlier Sorcha book, but I discovered there is a sequel, Spectyr, which is due out in June. I’ll be watching for it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

FALLING SKIES - Aliens invade Sunday, June 19th

TNT's new show Falling Skies airs Sunday June 19th at 9pm. I watched the two-hour pilot and the second episode, so I can give you the scoop. A dirty job… ☺ The opening explains that "they", meaning the aliens, came and blew up Earth's major cities, our ships and defenses. Now their clean-up crews have landed and are killing humans on sight – except for the teenagers. They are fitted with an organic "harness" that turns them into mindless drones for the aliens.

The aliens look like large (twice the size of a human), multi-legged bugs. Their head look like a cross between that of the predator and the alien from the movies of those names.

A very poignant scene has Tom Mason's son Hal, played by Drew Roy, telling his Dad that just seven or eight months ago he wouldn't let him ride his bike at night because his bike didn't have a light. Now he's sending him orders to fight invading aliens. Tom, played by Noah Wyle, is a history professor forced into the role of soldier because most of the military has been annihilated. His wife died while gathering food and his middle son, Ben was at a friend's house when their neighborhood was under attack. He and his other sons suspect that Ben has been harnessed by the "skitters".

Tom often gives impromptu history lessons as he makes connections with their situation and historic battles against human invaders or conquerors. He befriends a pediatrician, Dr. Anne Glass, who lost her own child. Dr. Glass (Moon Bloodgood) buries her grief and, instead, helps Tom's youngest child, Matt, and others deal with theirs. One of the most heartbreaking lines is when someone asks Matt if his Dad and brother are ok. He replies, "They were OK this morning. I don't know about now- they're fighting."

I had no complaints about the acting, and the script was excellent. At first I thought it highly improbable that the whole group of several hundred civilians and soldiers would watch while Matt plays with the birthday present his brother scavenged, but then I realized that if I were there, that's what I would do: Look, there's a kid enjoying a birthday present, riding around having fun. Enjoying an oasis of quazi-normality. I'm sure many would. The interplay between family members also rang true for me.

There were many night scenes in which they encounter the aliens and naturally don't want to alert them to their presence with light. But, my imagination can take it. Let me see what's going on! I can pretend that it's actually darker than that.

Any alien apocalypse is not complete without human bad guys, too. Hal and his girlfriend encounter a man named Pope with his gang of thugs to complicate their lives a whole lot more. Pope added needed flavor to the plot. My favorite line so far is his, "Being the leader of a post-apocalyptic gang of outlaws has been exhausting."

I'm looking forward to watching more. TNT says it knows drama. What's more dramatic than alien invasion? And I'm not just saying this because of the way-cool, olive-drab shoulder bag that will double as awesome Firefly gear. ;)

falling skies, steven spielberg, tnt, noah wylie, aliens, tvfalling skies, steven spielberg, tnt, noah wylie, aliens, tv

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

McIntosh poses hard questions in Soft Apocalypse

Soft Apocalypse
Will McIntosh

Night Shade Books, 2011

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

Soft Apocalypse gives readers a close up and personal view of an apocalypse caused by a convergence of many different and unfortunate political and natural disasters. It focuses not on the causes, but the effects. McIntosh delivers this tale of doom and gloom in a fresh, hip first-person voice that draws the reader immediately in.

Jasper, an unemployed college graduate who had his whole future ahead of him, now has to fight every day to have any future at all. Jasper's parents died three years earlier in a water riot. He hangs onto whatever vestiges of "normal" he can find, while trying to come to terms with the prospect that it may not be getting better after all.

Jasper, his best friend, and eight others live as nomads, going from town to town, trading energy cells for food to whatever businesses are still in operation. The group uses portable windmills along the sides of roads to charge the cells from the gusts raised from passing vehicles. They also gather solar energy with solar cell-equipped blankets.

As the story progresses, those end up being the "good days" though Jasper complained bitterly about the reality of it at the time. He is forced into situations where he must kill or be killed and kill or let his friend be gang-raped. It's not an uplifting read, but it's definitely a thoughtful one.

Most Americans hadn't known what suffering was until the depression of '13. In school we used to hear about the so-called "Great Depression," as if having a lot of unemployed people who were reasonably well-fed was this terrible holocaust. We were wimps. We're not any more—we've learned how to eat bitterness, as the Chinese say.

Soft Apocalypse explores some hard questions. What would we do in desperate situations that we may never have to face? Can we ever know until we're in them? Do people forced to kill lose a piece of themselves in the process?

My head was spinning from the last twenty-four hours. I felt great and awful, exhausted and exhilarated. Afterimages of Ange in the shower were superimposed with the priest feeding me from a beverage lid. Now the puddle of blood where Amos had fallen swirled with this opportunity. I guess I needed to take my joys where I could find them, and the hell with the notion that it was selfish to be happy amidst suffering. There was always suffering.

Adding to the pathos, Jasper goes from one hopeless relationship to another, all the while wondering if there ever will be such a thing as a normal relationship again. From a married woman who won't let go of their precious snatched, chaste meetings and texts to an abusive, self-absorbed rock-star with a death wish. Then it’s a friend who doesn't mind the occasional comfort bang, but doesn't want a romantic attachment.

When the world is falling apart, relationships matter all the more. They don't cost money, but they do make you vulnerable on yet another level at a time when you're scared of shadows.

McIntosh shows a lot of insight into this struggle and includes believable inner dialog to further delve into the depths of the grueling existence that forces so many hard choices. It's about trying to do more than survive. Trying to preserve one's humanity in a world turned upside down. Trying to find love when tomorrow may never come. I heartily recommend it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beauty Has Her Way

Beauty Has Her Way
Ed. by Jennifer Brozek
Dark Quest Books, 2010

Reviewed by Clare Deming

In Beauty Has Her Way, editor Jennifer Brozek [interviewed herein] brings us a collection of short stories featuring women. As Ms. Brozek explains in the introduction, the title is taken from a song by Mummy Calls that she discovered on The Lost Boys soundtrack. Each story here is about a woman, but these are no stereotyped damsels in distress. While certainly in distress, these women don't wait to be rescued by a fairy tale prince, but take action and use all of their assets - beauty, sex, or their wits, to conquer their adversaries. They're not all heroines in the typical sense, and many of them are far from stellar role models, but they do manage to accomplish their goals and get their way.

The anthology is divided into three sections - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - and the stories vary all over the speculative genre, including sword and sorcery, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, and space opera. I enjoyed most of the stories, but by the middle of the book, many of the protagonists' motivations centered around revenge. The details about the women's enemies and how they enacted their revenge differed, but especially as these were mainly "Today" stories, the setting did not offer as much variation to set each tale apart. The repetition of revenge as a theme shouldn't take anything away from each story individually - the wrongs these women faced felt legitimate and they often overstepped legal or cultural boundaries to fix the situation they faced.

One advantage an anthology offers over a novel is that there is no overall narrative, so if you tire of revenge or prefer fantasy to spaceships, just skip around and revisit the other sections later. For readers who don't mind mixing it up a little, this anthology provides a good assortment of stories. I did find one tale - The Runner, by K.V. Taylor - to be out of place. It may have occurred in the future, but with a plot that centered on a clan defending its swampy home, it could just as well have been an alternate world fantasy.

A couple of the stories also felt incomplete - as if they belonged to a larger novella or novel - and left me feeling like I had missed something. In Maurice Broaddus' story of ancient Rome, I, Theodora, some of the most exciting events are described in a few short paragraphs at the end. And in Witch Fire by Erik Scott de Bie, I found the concept of a gun witch to be intriguing, but felt like the witch's encounter would have had more impact if I had understood some of the character's back story better. At the end of the volume, there are biographies for all the authors. I'm going to highlight some of my favorite stories below:

"Dunkle Froline" by Ramsey Lundock
Humans are kept as slaves by their demon overlords in this harsh fantasy world. When a new pit slave is brought into the household, she must learn that the best way to fight her captors may not be the most obvious one. I really sympathized with Tessa and her plight when she is finally freed from the underground pits only to discover how little she knows about her world.

"Vengeance is Mine" by Kenneth Mark Hoover
This story started the cluster of revenge tales for me, but was set in such an interesting alternate weird West setting that I think it was one of my favorites in the anthology. A half-Indian woman takes it upon herself to see that an outlaw is dealt with when the law cannot do enough.

"The Moko-Jumbie Girl" by Chuck Wendig
A cop brings a girl to jail after she kills a pesky neighbor's chickens in an angry fit. Yet, Kalinda's true goals are only revealed to the police once she calls upon the Moko-Jumbie's powers. I liked this story because the plot elements came together in an unexpected way with a satisfying conclusion.

"Someone Else to Play With" by Pete Kempshall
This story was told through the man's point of view, but dealt with his ex-girlfriend's struggle to hold onto him when a rich woman from the other side of town seduces him away. The Australian slang in this tale put me off at first, but the meaning was clear and the language was appropriate to the character, so it ultimately made for an engaging tale.

"Ride the Rebel Wind" by Amanda Gannon
The first story in the Tomorrow section brings us into a post-apocalyptic setting where a few humans roam on skyships between isolated settlements. Two strong women clash in a search to destroy the Kraken as it rides through thunderstorms and brings devastation to defenseless colonies. I couldn't put the book down as I read this dark, yet fascinating, tale about the creation and destruction of a monster.

"Her Eyes On" by Kay T. Holt and Bart R. Leib
What's a woman to do when she's stranded on a planet where only men have rights? Build her own ship so she can leave, of course. But when her husband sells her ship, she's faced with some tough decisions and a daring flight. This story was a great example of a woman who makes tough choices that fall into a gray area of morality, but the authors made me both cheer for her and simultaneously struggle with her decisions.

Editor's note: Beauty Has Her Way also includes "Trapped Star" by Ann Wilkes. Due to conflict of interest, I asked my reviewer not to single that one out.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Man's Land - Now you, too, can go there

cover art by Mike McPhail

Defending the Future IV: No Man's Land is now available for pre-order at Amazon! This kick-butt military science fiction anthology written entirely by women comes to you from Dark Quest Books and is edited by Mike McPhail.

In my story, "Immunity Project," Donie is a pilot working for Allied Home Worlds Directorate, trying to make enough money to buy his own ship. He's on assignment monitoring the Immunity Project on the devastated world of Kradon. Rather than coming to their rescue, AHWD capitalized on their misfortune and continues to keep the survivors herded in six villages and their radiation levels constant to develop an immunity in the survivor's descendents. But the Krads don't know they're in a petrie dish. When a psionic fence goes down Donie's team has to land on the surface for repairs. That's when his world is turned upside down by a couple of the guinea pigs. (chapter icon also by Mike McPhail)