Dec 30, 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

Defining the best books of 2009 is a bit of misnomer. No one can read all the genre novels and only a few people read more than 100 or so books which would give at least a decently informed opinion. For every book I did read (40) there were 2 additional 2009 books that I still want to get to. The best I can do is review the books I read in 2009 and decide which ones I like best. There is no objective method behind my madness, purely my own opinions.  I also limited the selection to only books that were published in 2009. I read some older books as well but no one needs me to tell them that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a good book. (It is a good book if you haven't read it).

Anyway, without further nonsense, here is the list you came to see.

Favorite Reads of the Year:

  1. The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi – The world and characters in this book are so realistic and human that I can’t say enough good things about them. I don’t get a vote for Hugo/Nebula but this novel deserves at least one of them. Bacigalupi will be a force in science fiction circles for years to come. (Full Review)

  2. The Devil's Alphabet - Daryl Gregory – Strong characters that spoke to me (twenty something angst!) in a setting that was as bizarre as it was imaginative. Daryl Gregory integrates these fantastic elements into his fiction so well that you take them for granted behind the characters in the forefront. Gregory’s work balances the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy so he might fall through the cracks but his work is absolutely fantastic. (Full Review)

  3. Moxyland – Lauren Beukes - Maybe I’m a sucker for the combination of strong characters, plausible futures, and culture but I loved Moxyland’s bleak outlook where corporations control things without being impossibly evil. Lauren Beukes’s 2nd novel, Zoo City, is on my anticipated titles of 2010 list. (Full Review)

  4. Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie - Gritty, blood soaked and fun. Abercrombie’s First Law World is one I’ve fallen in love with and can’t wait to return to. If you like Fantasy and haven’t read Abercrombie, you are really missing out on something. I devoured all 4 of Abercrombie’s books this year at a 100 page a day pace and they just get better and better. (Full Review)

  5. The City & The City - China Mieville – This book didn’t have the deepest characters but the dual city of Ul Qoma and Beszel had my mind reeling and my mouth talking. Absolutely unreal world building. (Full Review)
So thats my top 5 fiction books that I read in 2009. I know I should have put them in reverse order for suspense but I don't feel like changing it now. Now's the part where you tell me how wrong I was and provide your perfect list.

Onward to 2010!

Dec 29, 2009

Reading Retrospective: 2009 in Review

Back at the end of June I took a look at my reading habits over the first six months and set some goals for myself for the remainder of the year. I'd like to take a look at the entire year as a whole and see if I managed to meet the projections I made for myself.

Over the course of 2009, I managed to read 39 books and 20 graphic novels (59 individual items total)

Here's a few interesting stats over the last 12 months.

Science Fiction: 16
Fantasy: 16
Horror: 2
General Fiction: 1
Literary Fiction: 3
Urban Fantasy: 5
Non-Fiction: 3
Star Wars Books: 6
Short Story Anthologies: 3
Young Adult Books: 5
Fiction Authors I Hadn't Read Before: 20 (+3 Graphic Novel Authors)
Books over 500 pages: 8
Graphic Novels: 20
Male Authors: 23 authors, 29 total fiction books
Female Authors: 5 authors, 7 total fiction books

I also managed to read 20 fiction authors I never have before as well as 3 new graphic novel writers.
  • Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Stephenie Meyer
  • Jose Saramago
  • Susanna Clarke
  • Bernard Beckett
  • Alan DeNiro
  • China Mieville
  • Christie Golden
  • Harry Connolly
  • Joe Schreiber
  • Lauren Beukes
  • M.L.N. Hanover/Daniel Abraham
  • Norman Partridge
  • Paul McAuley
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Scott Westerfeld
  • Tim Waggoner
  • Robert Charles Wilson
  • Paul Kemp
  • Brian K Vaughn
  • Bryan Lee O' Malley
  • Joss Whedon
Out of those 20 I would say Abercrombie, Bacigalupi, Mieville, Beukes, Abraham, Westerfeld, and Kemp are the ones I would be most likely to read again. I won't mention the worst but lets just say Urban Fantasy is very hit or miss for me.

My goal for this year was to average at least 50 pages a day or about 1 full length novel a week. Without graphic novels I finished with 40 completed fiction books, 12 off the book a week of 52 (77%) Page count wise, I read a grand total of 14,858 or so pages regular word filled book for an average of 40.7 a day. This puts me at 81.4% of my goal, a little bit higher than my book count but still below my goal. I’m going to try to shoot for the 52 book or 50 pages a day mark next year, but I don’t know if it will be doable with increased workload, getting married, moving, and trying to maintain this blog.

On the other hand if you include my 20 graphic novels and 4388 pages, I am suddenly at 59 books and 52.7 pages a day. So I kinda made it but unfortunately not to my own satisfaction.

I continued to manage the even balance of Fantasy and SF that I started the year with. I didn’t read as many series in the second half of the year but as I bounced from genre to genre, I managed to get a good mix of everything from Star Wars to Urban Fantasy to Hard SF to Literary fiction without being oversaturated. I would like to increase my horror input ever so slightly next year, and with a few suggestions from Llaird Barron and upcoming novels from Joe Hill and a few others, I might be able to do it.

I find that reading a variety of fiction lends itself to keeping things fresh. I’ve read other blogs that tend to focus more on one aspect of speculative fiction (Epic Fantasy for example) that have mentioned that reading and reviewing similar books over and over again can get monotonous. Luckily for me, I enjoy most of the speculative subgenres and finding something new and different is fairly easy. It’s reading everything I want to that’s a problem.

One place where I will admit that I need to work on is reading books by female authors. Only 7 books out of 40 were written by women which is hardly excusable. My only defense is that the 2nd half of the year was oriented toward Keeping An Eye On authors which were predominantly male but I need to be more conscious of this in 2010. I don’t want to set a quota for myself but there are a lot of good authors out there that I’m simply not reading and I'm not sure what else I could do. There will probably be something to address this in my forthcoming 2010 Reading Resolutions post but I’m not quite sure what yet.

Speaking of Reading Resolutions, let's take a look at my Goals for the 2nd Half of 2009 that I made at my Mid-Year Review. You don't really have a choice do you?

Goals for the 2nd Half of 2009
  1. Continue to read at a 50+ page a day pace
  2. Read at least 3 more short fiction anthologies
  3. Read Shadows of the Wind
  4. Read at least 3 more Hugo/Nebula winners
  5. Tackle Y: The Last Man (10 Graphic Novels)
1. Continue to read at a 50+ page a day pace (Actual 40.7) – Failed

I don’t know if this is a realistic goal but I went for it. I’ll try it again next year too.

2. Read at least 3 more short fiction anthologies (Actual 1, Started 2 others) – Failed

I have trouble sticking with anthologies because it’s so easy to jump outside the anthology once you finish a story and set the book down. It also doesn’t help that novels get all the attention on the blogosphere so they tend to be much more hyped

3. Read Shadows of the Wind (Actual Did not read Shadows of the Wind)

No Excuse Here

4. Read at least 3 more Hugo/Nebula winners (Actual 0, Possible 1 if The Windup Girl get what it deserves

Focusing more on new books rather than old books to establish the blog was the culprit here. Look for a Reading Resolution here too.

5. Tackle Y: The Last Man (Actual BOOYAH!)

I’m not a complete failure.

I’m also pleased to say that I've successfully maintained this blog and written over 200 posts to date. I've also slowly developed a tiny following here at Stomping on Yeti, enough that I’ve started attracting attention from a couple of publishers. I’m definitely open to receiving review copies of books but the core principle of my blog remains the same: high quality, honest content. Some of my once favorite blogs have become nothing more than publisher mouthpieces full of contests and excerpts and little else. I don’t want to join those ranks. If I can get through 2010 with blog, integrity, sanity, and real life intact, I won't have too much to complain about.

If you feel up to it, take a look at your own year in review and post a link in the comments. I'd be interested to see what my readers are reading.

Now is also the chance to comment on anything you like, dislike, want more of/less of here at Stomping on Yeti. Any recommendations you have to make my blog better in 2010?

Come back later this week for my 5 Favorite 2009 books (everyone is doing it!) as well as my Reading Resolutions for the 2010 campaign.

Dec 28, 2009

YetiReview: Crosscurrent

30 Words or Less: In one of the better Star Wars novels in recent memory, Kemp portrays a more intimate adventure focusing on two Jedi and their dance with the dark side.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Good: Feels like Star Wars (and Dark Forces Star Wars no less); Tight plot focusing on a small cast of characters allows for character development and intrigue; Action sequences that are well written and exciting; Jedi characters are represented as intelligent, fallible beings.

The Bad: Some plot elements might turn SW fans off; At points it feels like it might be channeling the OT just a little too much; I would have liked more integration with the Dark Forces backstory

Just before Christmas I was given an early present; the opportunity to review Paul Kemp’s debut Star Wars novel, Crosscurrent, almost a month before it hit shelves. Star Wars has always a guilty pleasure for me and Kemp’s teases of a Jaden Korr adventure had me eagerly anticipating the novel. However, just because Star Wars is a guilty pleasure doesn’t mean I go any easier on it. I might expect a different kind of experience then I do reading pure science fiction or epic fantasy (Star Wars is a little of both) but I still expect strong characters, interesting storylines, and professional quality writing. Any honest fan will tell you that recent Star Wars books haven’t always delivered. Lazy plotting, character arcs mutated by exposure to plot-onium, and other subpar writing techniques have diminished the luster of the galaxy I grew up reading. Much to my surprise, Crosscurrent exceeded my expectations and delivered a Star Wars novel that reminded me what I love about the galaxy far, far away.

The main strength of Crosscurrent is in its intimate scope and tight plotting. Rather than a galaxy spanning epic, Kemp focuses his storytelling on a cast of six and how their fates intertwine above an icy moon deep in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. There are a few other surprise cameos here but the short dramatis personnae teased by Kemp is accurate. One half of the action follows Jaden Korr as he tries to re-evaluate his devotion to the Jedi order and interpret the will of the Force in light of recent events. The other portion takes place 5000 years in the past as a master and padawan attempt to stop a Sith ship whose cargo could have dire implications for the Jedi Order and the Old Republic. Anyone who has read the Amazon summary knows that the two plots do eventually “cross currents” but there is more going on than the blurb will lead you to believe. As a warning, the methods used to get everyone in the same place may turn off a few readers with conservative conceptions of what you can and can’t do in a Star Wars novel but Kemp provides enough detail to make it work.

Kemp weaves the storylines together wonderfully, hopping between PoVs to build suspense and balance the duality of predator and prey, two roles that are not always assigned as expected in the latest Star Wars paperback. There aren’t any scenes that jump out as superfluous, something that has been increasing problematic in SW novels as of late. Every PoV features a unique, enjoyable voice which their own concepts of fate and the Force and how the two should interact. Despite the scope of the novel being very tight and a page count of only 318, Crosscurrent still manages to do a lot between the covers. As Jaden begins to realize why the Force has called him to this backwater system in the Unknown Regions, the suspense ratchets up a notch, drawing you into the plot in a way few Star Wars novels manage to do. I honestly didn't know what to expect and can't wait for Kemp's follow up effort.

As I briefly mentioned, Kemp’s Force users aren’t your typical cookie cutter Jedi and Sith but fully realized three-dimensional characters who don’t see the universe purely in black and white. As the twin plotlines begin to intersect, they form a crossroads for the six main characters. The characters face decisions that could mean the difference between life and death, light and dark. They feel genuinely human (or alien, you know what I mean) but despite their flaws, you are genuinely interested in their fates. If anything, I’m reminded of the Jedi of the Dark Forces video game series (in which Jaden Korr makes his first appearance). You might aspire to be a bastion of light but sometimes you just want to fry a little Sithspawn with a healthy dose of Force Lightning. (If you’ve played those games, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you should, those games are excellent)

While the Jedi are the focus of the novel, Kemp doesn't forget to channel his inner Han Solo, managing to weave some ancillary characters into the mix. Crosscurrent gives prominent roles to an assassin/bounty hunter used to operating in the shadows and a pair of down on their luck salvage traders who happen to be in the wrong cantina on the wrong day. The “Force muggle” role is one often forgotten amidst the lightsabers and the force lightning and it’s a pleasure to see that dynamic back in play. From page one on which we get a traditional SW opening, it's evident that Kemp really captured the feel of Star Wars; something which is surprisingly hard to do (I’m looking at you, Prequel Trilogy). Too often lately, Star Wars novels have been mostly mediocre, assuming that if you put Luke, Han, and Leia in a book and have them run around for 250 pages, the book will be worth reading. Crosscurrent on the other hand is a return to the high adventure of the Original Trilogy in the same vein as The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi (minus the Ewoks).

Not only is Crosscurrent an enjoyable Star Wars novel, it’s an enjoyable novel, period. The prose and the action are very well written and you can really get a visual sense of the action sequences with enough flavor to prevent it from reading like little more than a movie screenplay. There are going to be a lot of little things that the average sci-fi fan isn’t going to be clued into but Crosscurrent is one of the few Star Wars novels accessible enough to recommend to anyone looking for a good space adventure. If you are a Star Wars fan, Kemp's debut should be a must read for you. If you’ve just seen the movies, Crosscurrent is all of the fun Star Wars has to offer with none of the baggage typically attached to tie-in fiction.

Dec 21, 2009

Author Spotlight: Paul S. Kemp

One of my favorite video game franchises growing up was Star Wars: Dark Forces. From the early games pitting the mercenary Kyle Katarn against the Empire to the later games in which you play apprentice to Katarn (now a Jedi Master), the series has always been a underappreciated piece of the larger tapestry of the Galaxy Far Far Away. Not to mention the massacre of countless Storm Troopers. Bryar Pistol, Lightsaber, Force Lighting, Force Choke. Kill Counts in the quadruple digits. So when I heard that one of Katarn's apprentices, Jaden Korr was getting his own book my first thought was: It's about damn time. And the author giving us a prose window into this microcosm of the Skywalker-dominated shared universe? None other than Paul S. Kemp.

This is also Kemp's first foray into the GFFA, so I thought it would be beneficial to talk to Paul and shed a little light on the author behind the words. He was kind enough to participate, so read on to find out more about Crosscurrent, Kemp's other work, and his writing career in general.

SoY: So Paul, your first Star Wars novel, Crosscurrent, comes out January 26th, 2010. Can you tell us a little about that?

PK: Sure. Crosscurrent is a standalone novel featuring Jaden Korr and set right about at the end of the LotF series. The story also has a connection to the Fate of the Jedi series (though one need not read the Fate of the Jedi series to follow Crosscurrent's story).

SoY: What else are working on right now? What will Paul Kemp publish in 2010? (Novels, short stories, or whatnot...)
PK: In Star Wars, I'm working on two things: First, a sequel to Crosscurrent, though I'm not sure when the publication date is. Second, something I…er…cannot yet announce. And, of course, Crosscurrent itself will be published in January.

In the Forgotten Realms (the sword and sorcery setting where a lot of my previous work was set), my Erevis Cale Trilogy will be combined into a single volume omnibus edition that will include not only the three novels of the Erevis Cale Trilogy (Twilight Falling, Dawn of Night, and Midnight's Mask), but also two short stories that feature into the Erevis Cale story arc. Oh, and for those not playing at home, Erevis Cale is my signature character in the Forgotten Realms, a priest and assassin in service to the God of Shadows.

In non-tie-in work, I'm shopping a supernatural thriller/horror novel. Hopefully I'll have some good news to report on it sometime in 2010.

SoY: Some more recent Star Wars novels have seen stylistic departures from the standard Star Wars format. We've seen Star Wars Horror (Death Troopers, Star Wars Noir (Coruscant Nights), Star Wars Military Sci-Fi (Republic Commandos). How did you approach writing a Star Wars novel? Did you want to bring in a certain style or accomplish something specific in Crosscurrent?

PK: That's a tough question. First and foremost, I wanted to be true to the feel of Star Wars. "Feel" is a difficult concept to articulate, but Star Wars novels have a unique vibe that mixes high adventure and cinematic action with a fair amount of philosophy. So, I wanted all of that to be there. At the same time, my strength as a writer (or so I tell myself) is in characterization. I wanted to really dig deep into Jaden's character (not to mention the other characters in the novel) and hopefully sear him into the minds of Star Wars fans. I like to think I've done that, but time will tell. And while I did all that, I wanted to stay true to my own writing style, which I'd characterize as fairly dark and gritty.

SoY: Many of today's genre writers were heavily influenced by Star Wars growing up? Would you include yourself in that category? If so, what's it like writing in the Galaxy Far Far Away from a fan perspective? If not, what would you say were your biggest influences in the genre?

PK: Oh, I was certainly influenced by Star Wars growing up. For years, I got Kenner action figures and ships every Christmas and birthday (the Snowspeeder being a favorite). I had the comic books, adored the movies (still do), collected the trading cards (your remember those? They featured stills from the movies with a little caption, and came in red, yellow, green, and blue sets). So, yeah, I guess you could say I was influenced.

As for what it's like: in a word, awesome. I had a blast writing Crosscurrent and contributing even a small part to the Star War phenomenon is more than a little cool.

SoY: It's recently come to light that you've been asked to do another Star Wars book building off of Crosscurrent. Are you still limited in what you can say about the follow-up? Can you provide any hints at all about the new story idea, even if it’s a teaser or two?

PK: Unfortunately, I can't. The NDA-Force is strong with Lucasfilm.

SoY: What's been the highlight of your career so far? In the statement "If I could write a book that ________________ , I would consider my career a success." what would you put in the blank?

PK: It'd be easy to say hitting the Times bestseller list or writing a Star Wars novel, but it's nothing like that.

Instead, it's this: I once received a fan mail from a reader who'd lost his father. He explained to me that my handling of a particular plot point in Midnight's Mask (the third novel in the Erevis Cale Trilogy) really helped him get through it.

SoY: The majority of your published work has been done with the Forgotten Realms shared universe. How has that experience helped you make the transition to Star Wars? In what ways are writing in the universes different?

PK: Well, both settings are highly detailed secondary worlds/universes, so they're similar in that you've got to dive into the lore with both hands and get to know the world/universe pretty well. As for how they're different: well, setting aside the subject matter differences, Star Wars fandom is vastly larger and vastly more…er…zealous than Realms fandom. Make no mistake, I and millions of others love the Realms, but as I said above, Star Wars is a global cultural touchstone.

SoY: Star Wars has some of the most complex continuities of any cross-media franchise out there, not to mention a fan base that can be... let's say "less than kind" to authors who don't give continuity the proper attention. Was the transition from writing Forgotten Realms to writing in the Star Wars universe difficult? What did you do to prepare yourself?

PK: Del Rey sent me thousands of pages of material and I read and read. I also browsed some of the more popular Star Wars message boards, watched and rewatched the movies, and so on.

SoY: Do you have any ambitions to develop your own fictional universe? In an ideal situation, what would you like to be writing?

PK: I do and am in the process of doing so. As I mentioned above, I've already got a supernatural thriller/horror novel making the rounds, and I'm working (as time allows) on an epic fantasy. I'm hopeful both of those will see print eventually.

SoY: On the subject of rabid fanbases, some of the discussion surrounding Crosscurrent is regarding one of the main characters, Jaden Korr. In the Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy game, Korr was a customizable character that could be a male or female from various species. In your book he is locked down as yet another male human Jedi. While I don't believe you made that decision, would you have made the same decision if it was up to you? Should authors writing in these universes keep their characters human and more relatable to the reader or fully embrace the diversity available to them?

PK: I actually did make that decision. In the end, I think authors should write the character through whose eyes and voice they can best tell the story they want to tell. For me, that meant a human male Jedi. That said, many of the supporting characters in Crosscurrent are alien (an Anzat, a Cerean, a Kaleesh).

SoY: Did you play any of the games to prepare? Will we see any of the other Jedi Knight characters in Crosscurrent either in flashbacks/back-story or in live action? Kyle Katarn or Rosh Penin perhaps?

PK: Never played any of the games, but Katarn's teachings to Jaden are the lynchpin around which Jaden's internal journey takes place.

SoY: What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any weird writing habits that somehow work for you?

PK: Nothing weird. When the outline is done and I’m into a novel, I try to write 1,500 to 2,000 words in a weekday, and at least touch the manuscript (writing, say, a few hundred words) over the weekend, just to stay in tune with it.

SoY: An Askajian Jedi apprentice, really? That doesn't seem like the most graceful of candidate species. Do the males have any unique features to match the females?

PK: Other than ample adipose tissue, I don't get too much into it. I do get in a Moon Lady reference, though.

SoY: This will be many Star Wars fans first time reading Paul Kemp. Suppose someone loves Crosscurrent and immediately churns through your catalog of books. If they enjoyed what they read, what other authors would you recommend? What's the best thing you've read recently?

PK: I sure hope those who enjoy Crosscurrent will go out and read my Erevis Cale novels. I think those who enjoy my storytelling style will enjoy it in both settings.

Authors that inspire me and inform my writing are folks like Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and GRR Martin. So if you enjoy my writing, you'll certainly enjoy theirs, being, as they are, masters of the craft.
As for what I've read and enjoyed recently, let's call it a tie between Haldeman's The Forever War and Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union.

SoY: Going forward into the future, where can we keep an eye on you and your work?

PK: Well, I'll be hanging around the Star Wars EU for a while, I think, and all of my Erevis Cale novels remain in print. Meanwhile, I've reached verbal agreement with another tie-in publisher of fantasy fiction. That announcement will come sometime in 2010. So, I think my work should be easy to find.

[You can keep an eye on Paul at his livejournal:]

Crosscurrent comes out January 26th, 2010. Storm Troopers watch out.

Dec 18, 2009

Table of Contents: Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume 4

Over at Notes from Coode Street, Jonathan Strahan has announced the contents of Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 4 which hits shelves March 29th.

Introduction, Jonathan Strahan
1. It Takes Two, Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)
2. Three Twilight Tales, Jo Walton (
3. Secret Story [To Be Announced in March]
4. The Island, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)
5. Ferryman, Margo Lanagan (Firebirds Soaring)
6. A Wild and Wicked Youth, Ellen Kushner (F&SF)
7. The Pelican Bar, Karen Joy Fowler (Eclipse Three)
8. Spar, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld)
9. Going Deep, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s)
10. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black (The Eternal Kiss)
11. Zeppelin City, Michael Swanwick & Eileen Gunn (
12. Dragon’s Teeth, Alex Irvine (F&SF)
13. This Wind Blowing, and This Tide, Damien Broderick (Asimov’s)
14. By Moonlight, Peter S. Beagle (We Never Talk About My Brother)
15. Black Swan, Bruce Sterling (F&SF)
16. As Women Fight, Sara Genge (Asimov’s)
17. The Cinderella Game, Kelly Link (Troll’s Eye View)
18. Formidable Caress, Stephen Baxter (Analog)
19. Blocked, Geoff Ryman (F&SF)
20. Truth and Bone, Pat Cadigan (Poe)
21. Eros, Philia, Agape, Rachel Swirsky (
22. The Motorman’s Coat, John Kessel (F&SF)
23. Mongoose, Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear (Lovecraft Unbound)
24. Echoes of Aurora, Ellen Klages (What Remains)
25. Before My Last Breath, Robert Reed (Asimov’s)
26. Jo Boy, Diana Wynne Jones (The Dragon Book)
27. Utriusque Cosmi, Robert Charles Wilson (The New Space Opera 2)
28. A Delicate Architecture, Catherynne Valente (Troll’s Eye View)
29. The Cat That Walked a Thousand Miles, Kij Johnson (

I find it very interesting that has 4 stories making the anthology. If I'm correct, they've been around for less than a year. Quite a start. I didn't realize that the fiction over there was so strong. I don't typically read a lot of fiction online because I prefer the book form to get away from the screen when possible. Out of the big three F&SF has 5 stories, Asimov's has 4, and Analog 1. That would put on pace with any of the big 3 short fiction magazines.

Also, congratulations to Alex Irvine and Elizabeth Bear (Keeping An Eye On Authors and friends of the site) on writing stories that made it into the book.

Also, all 29 authors happen to be all women, what's up with that?

Made you look. Just Kidding!

Covering Covers: Blood of the Mantis

Over at Pyr-O-Mania, Lou Anders has posted the Pyr cover to the US edition of Adrian "Have Fun With That" Tchaikovsky's Blood of the Mantis

I must say I like this cover alot. More so than Jon Sullivan's previous Pyr re-cover for Empire in Black and Gold shown below. I don't normally like photorealistic characters on my covers but the new one isn't bad, whereas the WaspWarrior guys on the EiBaG cover look a little goofy (especially the wings). The thorn people on BotM are very intriguing and make me want to know more. My eye is also drawn to the red glow at the bottom of the book which highlights the authors name and adds a sense of mystery to the scene portrayed.

While I don't love the Empire in Black and Gold cover, I do love the layout and spine of both books. I think the font choice is unique and well spaced/accentuated. The spine design will guarantee that the books should look fantastic lined up on a shelf. I do hope that they keep the Pyr logo the same size. It changes based on the spine width and that bugs me in series.

On the other hand, the original Jon Sullivan covers (UK editions) were great as well). I'm not sure if I like the old covers more or not. It's a toss up. All in all, Jon Sullivan seems to have a great grasp on this series. I think I will go cover hunting to see what else he has designed.

What happened to the cover for Dragonfly Falling? 2 comes BEFORE 3, Lou...

UPDATE: Aidan was kind enough to link me the Dragonfly Falling Cover, which I now remember seeing. That one might be my favorite. It's between 2 and 3 certainly. So Lou can count. I just can't remember.

Dec 17, 2009

Covering Covers: Through Bended Grass

Fellow book blogger Aidan Moher maintains the site, A Dribble of Ink which has been a favorite of mine for a while now. From reading the site, I know he's been slowly struggling to write a first novel entitled Through Bended Grass He's been working on it for a while but he has always managed to maintain the frequency and quality of his blog without letting it become a soap box for his own work.

But today in a rare blog post about his book, Aidan comfirmed that he has wrapped up the final chapter. While it's not finished, it's a big point in any aspiring writers life and a moment that anyone who wishes they could be a published author appreciates.

I offered to publish Aidan's novel on my home printer for sale in Nepal through the imprint Stomping on YetiBooks. He initially turned down my initial offer of $5 but agreed to wait until he saw the projected cover art to make his final decision. So here's the first look at the cover to Through Bended Grass. Please note that this IS complete finished artwork.

Yes, we do publish books in that height/width ratio. And no, the book is not available for purchase yet. No matter how bad you want this cover on your shelf.

Congrats Aidan!

New Poll Update: Voting Possible and Additional Options

Having the poll open until January 2010 would help.

Since no one voted due to technical difficulties. I also included the series suggested in the comments as well as Jo Walton's Small Change alternate history series.

The updated poll is as follows

Which completed series would you like me to tackle in 2010?
Vote for as many series as you would like. Any other recently completed series that you would recommend?

Dec 16, 2009

Reader's Choice: Results and 2010 Series Poll

Unfortunately, I've reached the end of the interview pool unless Naomi Novik is lurking around somewhere and just enjoys watching me squirm.

I've got a few things planned for 2010 and a few end of the year pieces in the works but it may be a little slow around here due to travel and the holidays.

In the midst of this down period, I am going to try to catch up on some reviews (2 left) and finish a few more books by the end of the year including Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker.

Technically, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan won the reader's choice poll I conducted last month but since I already finished it (probably due to its quality), I'm going to read the 2nd place finisher as well. Not ignoring the fact that I love Bacigalupi's stuff. On a completely unrelated note, Paolo Bacigalupi's favorite anagram for his name is Labia Goal Cup Poi. Who knew?

For next year, I'm going to start the year off with a completed series or two or possibly three. I'm considering quite a few series and I'm not sure which I will feel like reading at this point. I will however, read one completed series as nominated by you the readers.

So the new poll, running through mid-January is:

Which completed series would you like me to tackle in 2010?
Vote for as many series as you would like. Any other recently completed series that you would recommend?

Dec 15, 2009

YetiReview: Darker Angels

21 Words or Less: Another well-written series installment set in voodootacular New Orleans that balances the normal with the bizarre by utilizing relatable characters

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Good: Strong first person narration balances the paranormal with the mundane, Well written characters that feel like old friend; New Orleans setting/culture intrigues without being overwhelming or unnatural

The Bad: Lack of over-arching plot movement; Subplot is fairly predictable (and spoiled by back cover); Some awkward foreshadowing disrupts an otherwise seamless voice; Cover still sucks

My experience reading urban fantasy is a lot like my experience with family reunions. It’s not so much what you are doing but who you’re doing it with. If you don’t get along with your family you aren’t going to have a good time, regardless of what vacation spot you choose. On the other hand, the right group of people can make even the most mundane of destinations memorable. But what happens when you get both? In Darker Angels, the second novel in M.L.N. Hanover’s Black Sun’s Daughter sequence, Jayne, Aubrey, Ex, and Chogyi Jake make the trip to New Orleans, Louisiana for some rest, relaxation, and just the slightest bit of hunting for a serial-killing body-switching voodoo demon. There may be more of the latter and less of the former but that doesn’t make Darker Angels any less fun.

The strongest part of this series so far has been the characters. One of my favorite aspects of the Unclean Spirits (Book 1) was how real the characters felt. Unlike many Urban Fantasy series (Dresden Files, Felix Castor, etc), Hanover made the decision to start Jayne's story at the beginning. Rather than starting out as the experienced guide to the supernatural world for the reader, Jayne is as clueless as the rest of us. So many times you see characters make the transition into the larger fantastical world behind their own mundane lives with little hesitation. So it's a relief to read a character who asks the same questions and has the same doubts that I imagine any normal twenty something would have when placed in the same situation. Even the little things like looking for a good wifi connection, making small talk over dinner and drinks, and seeking familiar comforts at a coffee chain work to normalize a cast of characters that are immersed in an otherwise abnormal world of possession, magic, and monsters. The absurdity of the supernatural elements balanced with the normal problems of maintaining relationships and mixing work with life reminded me of some of the best of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

As notable as Hanover's cast of characters is the location he places them in. From the fairly nondescript Denver setting featured in Unclean Spirits, Jayne and Co end up in New Orleans, LA. New Orleans is undoubtedly one of the most supernaturally charged cities in America and Hanover does an excellent job meshing the character of the city into the book without betraying the first person perspective of Ms. Heller. Some books only make token references to the setting, enough to ground the action and little more. Other stories lay on the detail a little too thick, trying to work their research into the story where it doesn’t belong. Darker Angels presents the city and its mysteries as Jayne sees them. As she journeys through water-logged ruins and the re-emerging tourist district in a hunt for voodoo cults and lost children we witness New Orleans through her eyes rather than some omniscient out of place narrator. I would say that the voice has improved from the first book in which Hanover (actually Daniel Abraham) seemed to have the occasional difficulty writing from the female perspective. While the majority of the narration is clear and consistent, there are a few places where it feels out of sync with the rest of the story. At times Jayne makes references to things people said that she misunderstood at the time of the story but that she now understands clearly in the future world from which she narrates her adventures. These points feel more like teasers than natural extensions of Jayne’s voice.

At the same time, that may have been my frustration with the overall arc of the series. While I appreciated Hanover’s skill at balancing his characters and his world-building, I couldn’t help but be irritated with the lack of answers to questions presented in Unclean Spirits. The plot itself feels light and somewhat predictable (especially if you read the back blurb) and the majority of the novel deals with fleshing out Jayne’s character rather than moving the bigger story forward. There are a few more tantalizing hints to a larger story involving her uncle, her tattoos, a vast fortune, innate magically ability and a possible destiny but little follow-up.

I drew parallels earlier to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and if I had to provide an analog for Darker Angels, it would be to the early episodes of the classic genre show. The characters have been introduced and hints at a larger story have been provided but the second or third episodes always seem somewhat stand-alone, serving as an additional jumping on point rather than aggressively pushing the story forward. There isn’t anything wrong with this per say. In fact, it’s more realistic than every episode dealing with the same evil force lurking in the background and single-mindedly building toward a season finale. But when you’re dealing with books, it’s not a matter of days or weeks until the next installment; it’s a matter of months. When you get to the end of the last chapter and you don’t feel like you don’t know any more than you did at the beginning of the book, it’s difficult to call the book a complete success. I’d like to see a better balance of subplot and superplot in future volumes.

Despite the disappointing lack of revelations regarding Jayne’s strange inheritance, this installment was another fast-paced fun read that returned to the enjoyable, relatable characters introduced in Hanover’s 1st work. I eagerly anticipate the release of Vicious Grace, the next book in the sequence. If you are interested in the series, I’d recommend picking up all three books and mainlining them like your favorite TV series on DVD.

Dec 11, 2009

YetiReview: Death Troopers

21 Words or Less: A fast-paced and truly creepy novel, Death Troopers combines Star Wars and horror but fails to try for more.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Good: Fast-paced popcorn read; Visual, descriptive prose; delivers on promise of "Star Wars horror"

The Bad: Feels very safe; Zombies take a long time to actually appear; very short for a hardcover, Could have been excellent with a little more character back story or a more detailed plot

While not quite as overexposed as vampires, there is an undeniable zombie epidemic lurching its way through the genre. World War Z. Zombieland. The Walking Dead. Necropolis. Even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That being the case, it was no surprise when LucasBooks announced Death Troopers, a zombie/Star Wars mash-up written by up-and-coming horror writer, Joe Schreiber. Luckily for the galaxy far, far away being bitten the Zombie virus doesn't necessarily guarantee turning into a mindless, staggering, decomposing story. On the other hand, it doesn't preclude it either. Some works of zombie fiction are absolutely brilliant, others deserve to be shotgunned, burned, or otherwise lobotomized. It's all about the execution.

So does Joe Schreiber deliver? Yes and no. From the beginning, it's clear that Schreiber has a way with words. His prose style has a visual style that is pitch perfect for writing horror. Simply put, you see what he writes, even when you really, really don't want to. And when the zombie action ramps up aboard the derelict Star Destroyer, Schreiber writes some things you really, really don't want to see. So as our small cast of characters attempts to escape the rapidly deteriorating situation, you feel like you are next to them every step of the way. It is horror.

It's also Star Wars. Despite the lack of flesh eating undead in the original trilogy (or even the crappy prequels), Schreiber captures the feel of the universe, the dialogue, the descriptions very well, especially for a SW rookie. There are even a few cameo appearances along the way. I won't give them away but he writes them so well it’s as if they walked off the screen and into this book. Schreiber did his research and he integrated his story into the greater galaxy. So when Death Troopers is described as Star Wars Horror, it's a fair assessment. Unfortunately, it feels like it could have been more.

One of the largest problems with this book is its length. It's a hardcover novel for a hardcover price but only contains 232 pages of actual story; a length which simply doesn't allow for deep characters, a well-crafted plot, and the intricate prose needed in a quality horror novel. While Schreiber does a spectacular job turning a sterile Star Destroyer into a terrifying set of corridors and caverns, the plot and the characters disappoint. They aren't bad by any means, they just need more attention. There is no reason why the book needs to be that short. Schreiber could easily have maintained the visceral prose that is the book's main strength AND detailed a cast of three dimensional characters uncovering an insidious plot concocted by the Empire's most brilliant and nefarious minds. He could have done it and kept it under 300 pages. There are hints of a larger story and characterization but those hints were never fully realized.

As a result, Death Troopers commits one of the most basic (and admittedly hard to avoid) sins of the zombie subgenre: the cold open. Instead of hitting the ground running, we first bear witness to the death of the majority of the ship's passengers and then their disappearance. There is no mystery here. It's zombies. Like almost any other zombie book or movie, the audience is firmly aware of what they are getting into when they jump on board. So when Schreiber takes his time getting to the fun stuff the book suffers.

Without ample characterization or mysterious plot elements, there is no connection between the reader and the potential victims fleeing the zombie horde. Without that bond, even the most frenetically paced story will fail to excite. Schreiber allows us to gradually become invested in Kale and Trig Longo, political prisoners aboard the ill-fated Purge, and Zahara Cody, the ship's chief medical officer but they don't really develop like they could have, especially considering some of the surprising decisions they face. This is very apparent when considering how "right" the cameos feel when contrasted with the underdeveloped main cast.

All in all, Death Troopers is a decent Star Wars story and a decent Zombie novel. The prose is dripping with suspense and Schreiber masterfully paints an unsettling story with the blood of Stormtroopers and Wookies alike. The book is good but it could have been so much more, given more pages and more development, both of plot and of character. While the novel succeeds at being creepy (and at times profoundly disturbing), Schreiber appears to have said "good enough" rather than turning off his targeting computer and trusting the force. While he's survived the battle, if he had ramped up the action little faster, developed his original characters a little deeper, and detailed the underlying cause of the epidemic a little bit more, he might have been just blown the reactor core.

Dec 9, 2009

Keeping An Eye On... Scott Westerfeld

This week's Keeping An Eye On... author, like me, knows a little something about alphabetical discrimination. A fellow W, Scott Westerfeld is frequently shelved at the end of the aisles. Fortunately for him, his talent also keeps another stack of books front and center on the bestseller table. Unfortunately for him, he got pushed toward the back of the interview queue.

Honestly, I'm not sure how Westerfeld snuck his way onto SF Signal's list of up-and-coming authors. I'm guessing its a lack of awareness because the majority of his work is marketed toward the Young Adult crowd and some of the "SFF elite" still refuse to read "garbage" like Little Brother, The Graveyard Book, or Leviathan. Brainless boycotting aside, you should have heard of Westerfeld by now. There's his Uglies series which frequented the bestseller lists and took home several awards including Best Book for Young Adults from the American Library Association. Or his Peeps books which also earned the same award. Or his Midnighters books that garnered an Aurealis award. Or there's his Succession books. Or any of his standalone novels.

Or there his brilliant new Steampunk alternate history novel, Leviathan, which recently came in first in a Reader's Choice Poll here at Stomping on Yeti. I just finished the book, and the only problem I had with it is that it's sequel, Behemoth, doesn't come out until next October.

Read on to find out more about Leviathan, Scott's feelings on the YA "stigma", and whatever else we felt like talking about.

SoY: I’ve been Keeping an Eye On you, but for those who haven’t, can you tell us a little about your recently released book, Leviathan?

SW: It's a half-steampunk, half-alternate history version of World War I. In this world, Charles Darwin discovered DNA, and the Victorian empire was built on the backs of fabricated species--living airships, talking message lizards, and various fighting creatures. The Germanic peoples (aka "Clankers") went a more mechanical route, and use walking machines with a classic steampunk look. The two main characters are the son of the archduke Ferdinand (a Clanker) and a girl passing as a boy to serve on a living airship (a Darwinist, of course). So basically, it's Romeo and Juliet in an alternate Great War.

SoY: How long do you plan to write in the Leviathan world?

SW: Leviathan will be a trilogy plus one. The trilogy covers an around-the-world trip, so we get to see Europe, the Ottoman Empire, Japan, and the US in this alternate reality, and there's also a fair amount of resolution in the war itself. The fourth book is a large-format, all-color geekfest of deck plans, cutaways, and illustrations of the uniforms, creatures, and machines.

SoY: A lot of your work has been primarily marketed as YA fiction but is often included in lists of quality YA fiction even adults should read. In your mind, what distinguishes YA fiction from adult fiction?

SW: "The age of the protagonists" is the usual answer. But I think it's more than that. Being a teenager is mostly about identity, figuring out who you are and what your place in the world is, while at the same time questioning how adults could have left things in such a mess. YA is really close to science fiction in that regard, which is why I always say that the SF section WAS the young adult section until recently.

SoY: What’s it like competing with Harry Potter and Twilight for attention and shelf space? (You seem to have done pretty well for yourself)

SW: Those books have created millions of new readers, most of whom have grown up with the fantasy genre as their primary reading mode. They've saved many, many bookstores from bankruptcy during an economic downturn, and created a culture where certain book releases garner as much media attention as movies. It would be churlish to complain.

SoY: How do you respond to adult readers who dismiss YA novels as something below them?

SW: Crippling insecurity is a terrible affliction, and we should all be as supportive as possible.

SoY: Back to Leviathan for a moment, one of the highlights of the book is Keith Thompson’s beautiful artwork interspersed throughout its pages. They give a visual aspect to the book which really works well with Steampunk. How did his illustrations come to be included in Leviathan?

SW: About 60 pages in, I realized that I was writing a "boy's own adventure," the kind my parents had moldering in their attic when I was growing up. Like most novels of that period (whether for adults or children), those adventures were illustrated. So I went in search of an artist.

I soon found Keith, who is amazing at both weird creatures and fantastical machines. He's created a style I call "Victorian Manga," a very accessible look that's based on Punch Magazine from that decade.

There are about 50 images in each book, more than one per chapter, so it's quite a bit more illustrated than the books in my parents' attic. But Keith Thompson's amazing work was worth stretching historical precedent.

SoY: You’ve written both vampire books (Peeps) and steampunk books (Leviathan); two of the hottest trends in genre publishing today. First, which subgenre will crash first? Second, when do we get your Zombie novel? And Third, what’s the next big trend in genre fiction?

SW: Well, I wrote Peeps a long time ago, too early to get included on the Twilight "readalikes" tables, so I wasn't exactly trend-spotting. And Leviathan has been in the works forever. But I do have a zombie short story coming out next year (in an anthology to be revealed soon). I would say I loved zombies before they were cool, but there was NO SUCH TIME.

But seriously, it's quite interesting to see steampunk gain some visibility over the last couple of years, after two decades of relative obscurity. I would doubt the genre can ever get big enough to "crash," because it's just too complicated for the average person. (It can certainly get big enough for people who hate trendy things to hate, but that's not a real crash, that's just wankers mouthing off.) To really get steampunk, you have to have a sense of history, a love of technology, and a whole set of notions about how human beings fit into industrialism and colonialism. And frankly, most people don't have the time.

Steampunk will only ever really trend at surface levels. It's like after Mad Max was a hit, and for a while every future included leather jackets, motorcycles, and mohawks, and then people mostly got bored of that (mostly). But you would hardly say that "post-apocalyptic settings crashed." Mad Max-ism just entered the canon of sf styles, which is what steampunk is in the process of doing.

I don't think vampires will ever crash, never ever, but why that is would be a whole dissertation.

SoY: Earlier this month, it was announced that your series Midnighters was being optioned for television by NBC. How involved are you in the development? What can you tell us about the series?

SW: What I can tell you is that I have nothing to do with it. The press release says something about the midnighters "fighting crime," which is news to me and to readers of the series. My guess is that people in TV say "fight crime" as a form of Hollywood-specific Tourette's.

SoY: You’ve been optioned for TV shows, won numerous awards, and often grace the New York Times Bestseller Lists. Out of all of your accomplishments, what has been the highlight of your career so far?

SW: The big story that most adults are missing right now is that today's teenagers are way more smart and sophisticated and cool than we were. I mean, seriously, doing things like writing novels en masse? Just to see what it's like to write a novel?

Being lucky enough to hit during that wave (which partly comes out of the YA boom, and partly from the internet itself) has been a total gas. Being an inspiration to this vastly awesome generation, and having the opportunity to guide a trickle of them toward SF (with fantasy being the overwhelming mode), is the best honor I could think of.

In short, my fanmail is the best thing ever.

SoY: Fill in the blank: “If I can write a book that _______________, I will consider my career a complete success.”

SW: I would hate to be a *complete* success. That sounds like being done.

SoY: Hypothetically, you get kicked off the list for selling too many books. Who do you nominate in your place?

SW: Lauren McLaughlin, whose Re-Cycler just came out (a sequel to last year's excellent Cycler).

SoY: What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

SW: Let me get back to you on this. Bug me if I don't! [Note: I bugged him. He never did]

SoY: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]


Another little known fact about Scott is that he refuses to experience winter, instead traveling between New York City and Australia as the seasons change. While that seems strange, as I sit here freezing in the slushy Chicago weather, I can't blame him in the slightest.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post my review of Leviathan this week or next. The short summary is that you should either ask for this book for Christmas, buy it for a young relative, or do both. His alternate steampunk world is so interesting that I absolutely cannot wait for the follow-up. Maybe I will have to travel to Australia to find out what happens next. And if I happen to stay there until there is sunlight again, that sounds good too.

Apple Tablet Rumors

Over at MacRumors, an industry analyst predicts that Apple is prepping mass production for the long awaited Apple tablet in February for a March debut.

Why is this mentioned at a book blog?

The report claims that the device will include a 10.1" multi-touch LCD screen, specifically countering a recent rumor that the device's launch would be delayed to the second half of next year and would include a model sporting an OLED screen.

Another claim included in the report is that Apple has begun contacting book publishers about distributing their books through Apple for consumption on the new device. Apple is reportedly proposing a similar business model to its App Store, where Apple would retain 30% of each download's sale price with 70% going to the publishers. This model is seen to be a significantly more attractive deal to publishers than that offered by Amazon for its Kindle Store, where sales are split 50-50 between Amazon and the publishers.

Book publishers may not be the only ones looking to get on board with Apple's tablet launch, as a coalition of magazine publishers just yesterday launched a joint venture to develop standards and business models for digital distribution of their content. Magazine publishers have also been designing prototypes of how their content might be presented on tablet devices.

This thing looks to be a netbook/giant iPod Touch/eBook reader. I'm too bibliophilic to want a eBook reader (Kindle/Sony/whatever) but if I could upgrade my iPod Touch which I use to watch/listen to a lot of video/music and have added capacity for reading books, it's definitely something I would get in line to buy.

Dec 8, 2009

Anders the Abominable (Editor not Snowman)

First off, that is my MS Paint rendition of what Lou Anders actually looks like. Over at Pyr-o-mania, Anders (henceforth referred to as The Bane of My Existence) has announced new books. Not two or three little novels mind you.

14 frakking books. Four. Teen.

The problem here is that, as with most Pyr titles, these sound very interesting. I'm not going to recap them all here (use the link, you know how) but fantasy and steampunk elements abound. Unlike most publishers, Pyr seems willing to go out and find the up-and-coming foreign authors that I read about on the foreign book blogs and *gasp* publish their books in the US. Jasper Kent, Pierre Pavel, Mark Chadbourn, Paul McAuley, and on and on.

You would think taken proven sellers in foreign markets and importing them would be a fairly solid business plan. So why is it that time and time again, it's Pyr that is acquiring the US rights to well-regarded foreign authors?

Anyway, 14 more books that sound like something I want to read. That's just what this bibliophile (and his bookshelves/bank account) need. Thanks alot Lou... ya jerk.

Urban Fantasy: Best and Worst

Good Urban Fantasy: Barnes and Nobles Best Urban Fantasy of the Decade

Glad to see many of my favorite series up there in addition to a few I may need to check out. I would say that Mike Carey's Felix Castor series is missing. No love for the Brits?

What's your favorite Urban Fantasy of the decade? Did B+N do a decent job?

Bad (and also hilarious) Urban Fantasy: Urban Fantasy Cover Art Awards

While I'm happy M.L.N. Hanover got nominated for the cover of his/her/its Darker Angels, that many Urban Fantasy covers in one place leaves me speechless. I just don't know how to react. I recommend taking a look over there and sharing your favorite cover/ title in the comments.

My personal favorites:
  • Spider Touched
  • Lover Avenged
  • Succubus Heat
  • Midnight Cravings

The only thing better is the categories:
  • Best Male/Female with Animal Cover
  • Best Floating Head Cover
  • Best Partial Body Cover 
I'd be really depressed if I wasn't laughing so hard.

Please note that I don't mean any offense to the writers of these books or the cover artists. The titles/covers are definitely oriented to what sells and publishing books with a certain feel guarantees sales. I would like to point out that 7 out of 13 books on the Barnes and Noble best of the decade list don't have typical UF covers.

Dec 6, 2009

Review Block

I've got half finished reviews for Death Troopers, Y: The Last Man, and Darker Angels. I also just finished Leviathan.

I need to set some deadlines for myself...

Dec 2, 2009

Keeping An Eye On... Daniel Abraham

After a brief holiday absence, Keeping An Eye On... has returned! This week's author is none other than Daniel Abraham. I held off interviewing Daniel until late in the process because I had previously talked with his alter ego, M.L.N. Hanover a couple of months ago regarding a few Urban Fantasy covers of "typical quality" and I wanted to give him the opportunity to write a little more. It helps that everything he writes is definitely worth talking about. Additionally, that first interview focused on his Hanover books and Urban Fantasy in general, so I wanted to revisit Abraham's own books and gauge his opinion on some more universally applicable subjects.

Abraham has proven to be one of the authors on most enjoyable authors on SF Signal's Watchlist. Granted, that's like picking the most attractive Victoria's Secret model but nonetheless Abraham's Long Price Quartet and Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter Series are some of my recent favorites. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Abraham's short fiction has been nominated for several major awards including the Nebula and World Fantasy. Needless to say, Abraham writes a pretty good story and if you keep reading, you'll find he makes for a pretty good interview as well.

SoY: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently?

DA: In the absolute most literal answer to the question, I've got a contract for three books in an epic fantasy series for Orbit and a couple more of the urban fantasy titles as MLN Hanover. I'm hoping that both of those turn into more contracts in the next few years. They're both projects I'm having a lot of fun with.

On a more abstract level, I'm finding myself interested in the difference between trying to do something really new and trying to do something familiar really well.

SoY: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this, what is the one single piece of work of yours would you like them to read?

DA: I'd point them at "The Cambist and Lord Iron". It's just a short story, so it's not something that asks for a lot of time. I'm fond of it, and it's free online here.

SoY: Can you tell us some more about your Dagger and the Coin series?

DA: Ah! The Dagger and the Coin. That's an interesting project.

When I started writing the Long Price Quartet, my personal mandate apart from the exact plots and characters and all was to figure out how to write a novel. I'd written a bunch of short stories, and i felt like I had a handle on that length. Novels, though? Before A Shadow in Summer, I'd written three trunk novels. Each one was better than the one before, but I didn't have it down yet. So four books later -- or five, if you count Hunter's Run, or seven if you add in the Black Sun's Daughter books to date -- I understand book-length fiction a better. I'm comfortable. I win, right?

When it came time to build the new project, one of the things that was clear to me is that if you know where you're going from the first word, you win. I have this whole rant comparing X Files to Babylon 5 that makes the point. Anyway, I started this by something I called the Symposium. I got a bunch of really great minds together for a Sunday, and we talked about what epic fantasy *is*. What's the relationship of the genre to landscape? How is it about nostalgia for a mythical past and how is it more than that? What are the expectations, and how can you fulfill them without painting by numbers? It was a *long* talk.

Then with that as a focus, I went through all the things I think are the most interesting things that I could fit into an overtly epic fantasy universe. I love the Medici bank, and especially Tim Park's book-length essay on it, Medici Money. I love The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis. I love Whedon's Firefly (not so much Serenity, but that's another rant). I love The Diary of a Man in Despair by Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen. I love Dumas and Dickens. I love Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo books. I think Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empire's Fall series is critically under-appreciated. And on and on.

And so I stole everything I liked the best, and now I'm making gumbo.

The books -- I'm under contract for three, but I'm thinking that the first full arc will take about five -- follow five main characters. It's a little weird, since instead of having a farm boy chosen by prophecy, I've got an orphan girl who was raised by my version of the Medici bank, but hey. The point was never to paint by numbers, right?

The first book covers the introductions and setup with a bunch of swashbuckling and dark magic and intrigue and sentiment. The second book is the start of the Great War. The third will take us up to the critical moment, and then change the game again.

They're longer books than the Long Price -- about 160,000 words at the minimum where the Long Price was more in the 120-140 range -- but so far, it reads like a short story. With as much as there is to cover, things move fast. And it's a different tone. The glib way I've been describing it is that I wrote my tragedy first, now I'm writing my adventure, and if someday I'm good enough, I might try my comedy. But not yet.

SoY: You've currently got work planned in both the Epic Fantasy subgenre and the Urban Fantasy subgenre. Are there any current plans to further diversify? In an ideal situation?

DA: Oh yes. I'd love to. I have things on the back burner for a space opera, a mystery series, and a semi-literary horror/popular science book. But I also have 24 hours in the day and a family. I've had a good time playing in the different subgenres, though. It's taught me a lot of things I don't think I'd have learned otherwise.

SoY: What authors would you describe as your primary influences in developing your personal narrative style?

DA: That's a hard call. I don't think I've consciously adopted anyone's voice. When I was just starting off, I was interested in Anne Rice and Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. There's a grouping that would make all of them cringe, but they were all people I admired. People forget this, but back in the day, Anne Rice was really good with evoking a mood and making things that should have been absurd and ridiculous poignant. She lost it later, but a lot of people do. It doesn't make her earlier work bad. King was great at telling a story, and not letting the beauty of the piece get in the way. I still admire the hell out of him for being utterly in the service of the story and not the aggrandizement of the author, moreso since he's become a demigod. And Atwood -- say what you will about her unfortunate snobbishness -- has a feel for the complexity of human emotion and poetry options of language that is very, very compelling, especially in her non-genre work before The Handmaid's Tale.

The biggest single influence, though, is Walter Jon Williams. I've been workshopping with him for over a decade now, and he has taught me more than any other single person, especially about how to identify and overcome my default errors. Walter's a craftsman, and that's sky high praise where I from.

SoY: In the novel Hunter's Run, you collaborated with genre heavy hitters Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin to expand a novella decades in the works. Do you find it easy for you to collaborate on creative projects? Is it harder when working with people that are at different points in their careers?

DA: I appear to be pretty good at collaboration. The biggest single skill I can recommend for that kind of project is give up having it be the way you'd do it alone. The point of collaboration is that it isn't what any of us would have done solo. Once you're willing to lose a point here or there -- to relinquish total ownership of the project -- it can be great fun. That's true whether it's Hunter's Run or the Wildcards books or the Tauromachia story I did with Walter, Sage Walker, and Michaela Roessener.

And George and Gardner were fun to work with. We have deeply different styles -- especially me and Gardner -- but they're serious writers who treated me and the project with utter respect. As far as being at different points in our careers, that would be a real problem if I looked too much up to them or they looked too much down on me. But they were very good about treating me as an equal, and I'm not that bowled over by people higher on the food chain. Didn't help me in high school, but it's a nice talent now.

SoY: Like many authors you started out writing shorter fiction (Leviathan Wept is out next year!) but your output has diminished as you came to focus more on novels. What is your opinion on the short form? Is it merely a stepping stone to bigger things or a valuable form that just isn't financially viable for today's writing market?

DA: Are you sure my output's diminished? I've got three novelettes that are eligible for the Nebula this round, and four more stories under contract one place and another, both as myself and MLN.

I think short form is great. It's sharper and faster than a novel, and it allows for some effects that in a longer story would just get tedious. From a purely mercenary point of view, yes, it's a good stepping stone to larger projects. I'm not sure that novels always make you more money if you account it by the word, but the stability of knowing that, for instance, the Orbit contract I signed will pay me for the next three to four years is a very pleasant thing.

From a really mercenary point of view, though, any fiction writing is stupid. Better to write non-fiction where the money is, or get a real job. And short stories are fun.

SoY: As a follow up, what would it take to resurrect the ailing short fiction market? Would a clear cut internet delivery system (iPod for fiction/Kindle/iTunes) be enough to provide another golden age for short genre fiction?

DA: Well, the glib answer is more people reading them. Part of the problem is that short stories are more directly in competition with television and movies than novels are. It takes about the same kind of time commitment to read a short story as to watch an episode of House or, if it's a longer story, a feature film.

My sense, though, is that the thing that would really help resurrect the short story market is a really skillful, reliable, high-profile editor who can present stories so that readers know what they're signing up for will be what they want. I remember the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies. The problem, I think, we're facing in an information age is filtering. We need more recognized, acknowledged, high-profile filters. Maybe Oprah.

SoY: As a Clarion graduate, What is your opinion of writing workshops? What's the more important aspect: writing advice or networking opportunities?

DA: Ah, the tastes great/less filling question.

I went to Clarion West in 1998, and it was a very good thing for me. I've been in a live, active writing workshop for almost a decade, and I've gone to the week-long Rio Hondo workshop in Taos probably eight times in the last ten years. Every one of those has both made me a better writer and broadened the number of serious, professional people I know in the field.

That said, I'm a skeptic when it comes to workshops.

There is an industry of writing how-to books and workshops and seminars that preys on the desperation of new writers. I've talked to editors and agents who go to these, and even the folks who do go to them don't think much of 'em.

If you can get a good group of people to work with, if you're already sure enough of your craft that you can consider something that a more successful author says and discard it, if you're open enough to changing that you can consider something a lesser writer says and accept it, then workshops will make you better faster than anything else in the world.

Even from a strictly craft perspective.

And knowing a bunch of people doesn't hurt.

SoY: What are a modern internet-age author's responsibilities when it comes to self-promotion?

DA: Briefly, meet your deadlines and don't be a dick in public. It's not a moral thing, it's just good tactics. If there's more than that, I haven't figured it out.

SoY: Tell us a little about your personal writing style. What are your writing habits like?

I drop the kid off at school at 8:30. I get my coffee and a raisin tart rom Guiseppe's. I go to a desk in my parent's print shop. I leave it again when I go get the kid at 3. In between, I avoid writing as much as I can.

SoY: Who wins in a fight between Daniel Abraham and M.L.N. Hanover? Does he have an evil goatee?

DA: MLN. Daniel's a very sensitive, thoughtful kind of guy. MLN's willing to take the kick to the balls. And of course there's no goatee; anyone using initials instead of a full name is obviously a woman.

SoY: An incident occurs resulting in your removal from the list of up-and-coming genre stars. What is the most likely cause of that incident? (can be as serious or as funny as you would like) Who do you nominate in your place?

DA: Funny you mention it. My wife was hilariously sick last year, to the point we were talking about what the plan was if I had to go back to a full-time day job. If anyone out there ever enjoys anything that I write for the rest of my life, let me make it very, very clear: You owe Dr. Mohammed Othman and Dr. Michael Camilleri. So do I.
As far as giving away my chair, Ian Tregillis is going to kick my ass out of it in a couple years anyway. You haven't heard of him yet because his Milkweed Triptych hasn't been published, but he's hands-down the most talented writer I've ever read who isn't already more famous than me.
SoY: On a possibly related note, What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

DA: That's actually a trick question. I'm on the jury for the PKD this year, so I'm actually not allowed to talk about the vast majority of the things I've read this year, and my extra-curricular reading has been thinner than I normally like.

I'd mention Tana French's "mystery" In The Woods. I use the quotes because as a mystery, it's not particularly satisfying. Read as supernatural horror, though, it's freaking lovely. And anyone who hasn't read Jo Walton's Small Change books is missing a real treat.

SoY: What's being a judge for the PKD award like? Have you figured out how many metric feet of book you are suppossed to read?

DA: It's a fascinating process. I'm not allowed to into specific, of course, but the assignment is to read every original paperback science fiction book that comes out this year. I was warned going in that the problem was starting to read a book I enjoyed, but not so much that I'd give it an award, and then having to put it aside because there were so many others to get to.

The award committee this year has some really great people on it, and more than half the fun is getting to talk to them about the books. At this point, there are still some books that may show up on the doorstep, and we haven't even nailed down a short list, so I don't have any idea who will actually take the prize. There have been some damn fine books in the mix, though.

SoY: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]

DA: I'm having the websites redesigned, but very shortly you may reach me at,, and I am always at home.

If you are still here after that long (and fantastic) interview, thanks for reading. Abraham's Black Sun's Daughter series and Long Price Quartet are two outstanding series so I have high hopes for The Dagger and The Coin.

I just finished Daniel Abraham's latest, Darker Angels. Look for a review later this week. Next Thursday, it's Scott Westerfeld's turn in the spotlight.
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