Jan 28, 2010

SF Masterworks Relaunch (or Golancz Mocks Me)

On Monday, I posted about finally getting the last book in the Gollancz's 73 odd book SF Masterworks Series. Wooooooo!!!, right?

So today, I am minding my own business on twitter. And then I see this:

Gollancz: First cover from SF Masterworks Feb relaunch (new covers, matt lam, new typsetting AND with new intros) is in and looks gorgeous. V. excited
Not Cool Gollancz. Not. Cool.

My first response:

A little bit more digging reveals they are indeed relaunching the series with a mix of old and new titles in new editions with intros from SF writers like Adam Roberts and Graham Sleight.

February Relaunch (All Rereleases)
The Rediscovery of Man - Cordwainer Smith
Gateway - Frederik Pohl
The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
Cities In Flight - James Blish
The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
Lord Of Light - Roger Zelazny
Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delany
The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester The Stars My Destination

May Books
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut - New
Inverted World - Christopher Priest - New

June Books
Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke  - Rerelease
The Island Of Doctor Moreau - H.G. Wells - New

July Books
Helliconia - Brian Aldiss - New
The Time Machine - H.G. Wells - Rerelease

You can see all the gory details here.

Out of the 16 books on the calender thus far, 4 of them are new releases. The rest are rereleases...

I guess the covers are decent (especially The Time Machine) but still I'm reluctant to get involved again. The biblioholic in me is scared. I need to know...

-Will the spines be different?
-Will the numbering restart?
-Will they line up nicely on the shelf?

I don't know who makes these decisions but if you are they: What did I ever do to you?

Jan 27, 2010

Nothing new so a question for you...

Between the day job and some longer projects here at Stomping on Yeti, I've got nothing new for you today except for a question.

Which currently unfinished series are you most interested in seeing finished?

Right now, I would probably go with Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. Book 12 out of a projected 20 or so is coming out this year and Butcher only gets better with every book. He also manages to grow the story and his world at a natural pace that rewards long-time fans.

Even from day one there were hints at a larger story that have never been fully explained. I'd really love to see what Butcher has in find for the future.

What's yours and why?

Jan 26, 2010

Crosscurrent Releases Today

Just a reminder that Stomping on Yeti spotlight author Paul S. Kemp's Star Wars debut, Crosscurrent comes out today.

Whether or not you've read Star Wars fiction before, this is a book I would recommend. It's enjoyment-heavy and continuity-light. And I know you've at least seen Star Wars. No one who reads this blog who hasn't seen at least the first one. If you haven't get out, now. Come back when you are human.

I'm promoting this one, not only because I loved the story (full review here), but because I realize many publishers only see through their bottom lines. And the better this book does, the better the odds that I get more books like it. Which is something I want very much.

So checkout Crosscurrent and give it a try. It's like reading the movies. Or at least like reading the good ones.

Jan 25, 2010

Don't Call Me Ahab...

...because I landed my white whale. After years of off-and-on searching that evoked memories of Harrison Ford's The Fugitive, I finally turned up a copy of the unobtainium-bound book!

On to the shelf you go...

The full 70+ book collection.

That is all.

Jan 22, 2010

CoverFail or CoverWin?

Just playing Devil's Advocate here but with the latest CoverFail regarding Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass and Bloomsbury's subsequent apology and promise of new cover art, is this really a CoverFail for Bloomsbury? Or more of a strange CoverWin?

Now certainly Bloomsbury looked bad (especially after the Liar debacle which was handled similarly only a few months ago) but at the end of the day, what were the results?

1) New covers for Liar and Magic Under Glass
2) Tons of discussion and publicity for the two books and authors (that people actually read)
3) Bloomsbury apologizes and saves at least some face

How many people are now aware of Liar and now Magic Under Glass because of the cover controversy? I am certainly aware of the books, authors and content at a much deeper level than if there hadn't been such a controversy. Taking nothing away from Jaclyn and her work, I highly doubt that Magic Under Glass would have been featured on so many book blogs, publisher sites, and message boards if not for the CoverFail. [For reference, here is a site to with no less than 38 articles]

I'm not saying that it's on purpose (for every 1 book that gets highlighted for a CoverFail there are probably 50 that don't) but in the long run, Bloomsbury didn't come out so bad on the other side of this. They don't end up looking like the bad guy because they again admitted their mistake. I don't think that anyone is imposing a blanket boycott on Bloomsbury (or at least keeping it now that the book is being recovered). That particularly wouldn't be fair to the authors. Bloomsbury also got a lot of free publicity and coverage of their book in exchange for the price of some new book jackets.

Now misrepresentative covers shouldn't happen in the first place. Authors and cover artists should ALWAYS talk and collaborate on the cover art. How hard is it to e-mail someone a rough sketch or early draft? While the whitewashed covers shouldn't happen, CoverFail discussions are something that should and it's great when the debate produces a satisfactory conclusion. The only other option would be to ignore a CoverFail and that isn't an acceptable option for anyone.

But if Bloomsbury does this again in 4 months you can mark me as officially suspicious...

Jan 21, 2010

Traveling Today and 5 Possibilities for Fantasy Debut of 2010

I'm Amtraking it across the US today so no content for today.

I would point readers over to Speculative Horizons, where James has a list of 5 titles/authors who might take the crown for Fantasy debut of the year.

Check it out. Interesting books all around. 4 of the 5 were on my radar already, Farlander being the exception.

And regarding cover art, let's play a quick game of "Which of these ones is not like the others?"

It's pretty clear how derivative the cloaked backlit guy with a sword really is, isn't it? Judging the books solely on cover art, I would read them in this order.

1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdons - N.K. Jemisin
2. Farlander - Col Buchanan
3. The Left Hand of God - Paul Hoffman
4. Tome of the Undergates - Sam Sykes
5. Spellwright - Blake Charlton

But it's not about covers it is? Head over to Speculative Horizons to get the all the details on these much anticipated titles.

Amazon Enticement: Too Little, Too Late?

It was all over the Web today (here for example) that Amazon is revising the pricing model for publishers and offering them a better cut of the action (roughly 70% of the price). There are various stipulations but in essence Amazon is trying to get the publishers to offer their books on the Kindle and offer them relatively cheaply. More thoughts on this later. [Day Job Sucks This Week]

With the all but confirmed iTablet set to debut next week, Apple also appears to be entering the eBook market, most likely through their pervasive iTunes Store, which can be access by virtually any computer with an iPod. I don't know the number of iPods vs. the number of Kindles but it's not close.

The timing of this makes it look like a desperate ploy by Amazon to proactively combat what has been dubbed the Kindle Killer. By why so little and so late? Amazon could have become the dominant eBook reader. They had the best device on the market for at least a year and arguably the best marketplace for selling eBooks.

But rather than enticing readers and publishers, they squandered their advantage. Amazon should have taken the long-tail approach and offered Kindle for a drastically low price ($100-$200) and tried to drive prices down as much as they could by offering publishers 70% of the cut much earlier. With a projected $.06 distribution cost (to be paid by the publisher) there is plenty of extra margin to entice the publisher and cut the costs compared to physical books. Video game publishers do this all the time with the intention of making up on the cost on the back end. With basically no cost scaling for additional copies (i.e. limitless supply), eventually you will make back the money.

They also could have aggressively pursued something like my reader enticement program (suggested here) to lower the buy-in for readers. Instead they continued to sell expensive eBooks with a high initial purchase price. I'm interested in eBooks but if I'm going to drop 300+ on an eReader it's going to be something I can dual purpose. That's why I'm waiting to see what Apple brings to the table.

If Amazon had gotten Kindles in the hands of more readers and gotten those readers invested in it, they would be in a much stronger position than where they are now. They would have people used to reading eBooks and with the Amazon DRM being what it is, readers wouldn't be so quick to switch libraries. Even if people did get the iTablet and let's face it, they will a cheap Kindle would have still been picked up by technophiles. If Amazon can still maintain their iTunes App, you could potentially read Amazon purchased books on both devices. With the rumored battery problems of the iTablet, a dedicated reader might be something people are still looking for.

But it's too little too late. The Kindle Killer appears to be looming around the corner with all of the hype and the interest. Hopefully, Amazon will be able to still sell books that are viewable on the iPod. I actually strongly suspect that this is the case, because the only way Amazon's actions make sense is if they were intending on being a third party seller all along and merely used the Kindle as a Beta test for their distribution system all along. At the same time, I think their competing music stores might sour any potential partnership. Ahhhh, who knows? I guess we will see next week.

Jan 19, 2010

Lost, but Not in Translation

Last week, I spotlighted the cover of Maurice Broaddus's debut from Angry Robot Books, King Maker. The book itself sounds very interesting but what I found almost equally intriguing was it's setting: Indianapolis.

When it comes to American cities, Indianapolis is nothing special. My apologies to the Hoosiers but it's true. It may be the 14th biggest US city but in terms of defining characteristics or geography or culture, there isn't a lot to talk about. This isn’t a huge issue per se but when you consider that King Maker is debuting to an exclusively UK audience, it becomes a little curious.

Can you describe the 14th biggest city in your own country? Furthermore, can you name/describe the 14th biggest city in a foreign country? Angry Robot books is selling Indianapolis to England. Will they buy it?

Using existing cities and cultural references typically benefits the author. This is particularly helpful in Urban Fantasy or Near-Future Science Fiction when the city is not the primary focus of the story. Using a recognizable city allows the melding of the monstrous with the mundane; the futuristic and the familiar. It’s easier for the reader to envision the setting, allowing the author to devote more words to plot, character, or action.

But the world is getting smaller and it’s only getting easier to get your hands on any work of fiction published in the English language. US or UK, Canada or Australia, even India or South Africa: the internet and affordable worldwide shipping have made every book available for a global audience. The problem is that when you start talking about a global audience, the number of recognizable cities drops dramatically. Outside of New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and a few others, you are going to lose some people. Indianapolis isn’t exactly recognizable in the US. What happens when the average Australian tries to visualize the city in their mind’s eye?

To test my hypothesis, I recruited a few fellow bloggers to provide their first impressions of common US cities as if the cover blurb mentioned them in passing WITHOUT resorting to google or wikipedia. Here is our eclectic panel:
  • Aidan of A Dribble of Ink. Aidan hails from Canada, making him Canadian. You know what they say. You can't spell Canadian withou Aidan. You also can’t talk about great genre bloggers without including Aidan.
  • Niall of The Speculative Scotsman. I'll give you one guess where Niall is from. Niall is very new to the SFF blogging scene but he is making a big splash with both quality and quantity of content/snark.
  • Amanda (a.k.a Magemanda) of Floor-To-Celing-Books. Amanda is representing Britain. Her blog doesn’t appear to be working at the moment I’m writing this but when it is, it’s definitely worth reading.
  • Blue Tyson of Free SF Reader. BT is an Australian blogger but unfortunately, he has lived in the US for a few years so he’s got a little more experience than the typical Aussie.
So here is the the question: You pick up a book and it is set in ___________, what images and settings does that evoke for you as a reader?"

The Cities
1. New York City
2. Washington D.C.
3. Indianapolis
4. Chicago
5. Los Angeles
6. New Orleans
7. Boston
8. Miami
9. Detroit
10. Seattle

1. New York City

Aidan - Power, money and lights. Taxi cabs and skyscrapers.

Niall - In Scotland, we have two proper cities. The government has in their infinite wisdom awarded the city designation to five or six others, but no-one here pays Perth or Inverness much mind. In any event, there's Glasgow, and there's Edinburgh; I imagine New York City to be the North American equivalent of the former. Glasgow is where most things in Scotland happen; it's the beating heart of the country, bustling with business and people with their heads down, but there's also a substantial amount of crime. Guns, for instance, are for the most part outright banned in the UK, so you don't often hear about gun crime - it's actual news. A few days ago, though, someone was shot dead in an ASDA car park in Glasgow. Pretty much anything that happens in Scotland, including bad juju such as that, happens there.

Amanda - This is the city that never sleeps! Freezing cold in the winter; bakingly hot in the summer - oh, and almost all the inhabitants seem to up sticks and take part in a mass exodus to the Hamptons and back each summer. Iconic, breathless, unique, impersonal (I've actually visited NY so I feel I can talk about it with some authority). In the SFF arena, I've read the Good Fairies of New York by Mark Millar.

2. Washington D.C.

Aidan - Clean and filled with people wearing suits.

Niall - I'd extend that analogy to Washington D.C., too. If NYC is Glasgow, the commercial centre of Scotland, the Capitol can only be Edinburgh, home to tourists, arts and the upper middle-class.

Amanda - I've also visited this city. My impression was large houses, wide boulevards and clean streets. I think Washington prides itself on being the political centre of the United States (and, arguably, the world), and takes itself a bit too seriously. All the more surprising that the Smithsonian Museums are located there! I've read some Kim Stanley Robinson set in Washington - bah, without Google I can't remember! I read it a while ago.

3. Indianapolis

Aidan - Yellow and average.

Niall - There are... races there? I think? Haven't read Kingmaker yet - should I? - nor can I recall the city being the setting for any other fiction in recent memory. Indianapolis would be a blank slate for me.

Amanda - Haha, you're totally right! Indianapolis is a big blank to me! I know the city exists, I know that GenCon is held there (yep, I'm a big geek), and I *think* there might be an Indianapolis Grand Prix for Formula 1, but I have no clue about what the city is like, where it is, important little details like that...

4. Chicago

Aidan - Great downtown. Lots of business people. Lots of cold colours (black, grey, etc...) in an elegant way.

Niall - Curiously I think Chicago is the sort of place where noir happens. And dark fantasy, perhaps. I know not why.

Amanda - The Windy City! I've watched the musical, and my general impression is business and crime and Al Capone. I love Jim Butcher's Dresden series set here.

5. Los Angeles

Aidan - I've been there, so I have a pretty strong picture. Venice Beach and Sunset Boulevard. Haze and lots of skin. Hell on earth.

Niall - I know this to be the city where Jack Bauer often hurts people. Also the vicious circle of down-on-their-luck hopefuls who've tried and failed to make it big and the dodgy dealers who take advantage of their disappointment.

Amanda - LA is all about Hollywood for me - I see it as being rich, decadent and seedy. It seems the kind of place where women are all plastic and blonde and the waiters are all down-on-their-luck actors (check out my sweeping generalisations!) Angel by Joss Whedon was set here.

6. New Orleans

Aidan - The French Quarter, as defined by popular culture.

Niall - New Orleans is a curious one, delineated in its literary analogues by Katrina much as it was in real life. I don't feel qualified to speak about the truth of life in that city now, but certainly before the levies gave in, before the tragedy, it was represented as a seductively open-minded sort of place: lurid and dangerous in all the right ways. If I had ever come to America, I'd have come to New Orleans.

Amanda - Here my over-riding view is of a city from the deep South, where the citizens drawl and eat stuff like 'grits', which just sounds bizarre to me. Music is also something that I link with New Orleans - jazz in dark smoky clubs. For some reason vampires are drawn to the South - Anne Rice's vamps lived in New Orleans, and Sookie Stackhouse lives in Bon Temps, which I think is local (check out my detailed knowledge of US geography).

7. Boston

Aidan - A Europe-esque old town feeling, but with modern concessions. History. Great architecture.

Niall - For me, a Scotsman looking in from afar, Boston is inextricably tied to the Tea Party and the Massacre, and not coincidentally the revolutionary air of era. It's a place with real heritage, a place where impossibly important decisions were made. I'm afraid to say I imagine it to be a sort of post Victorian-era London, full of museums, town halls and town cryers.

Amanda - Okay, well, the Boston Tea Party springs instantly to mind, but honestly? I don't really have an impression of Boston. It's one of those cities that I know of but don't know anything about - I don't even know where in the States it is located (yep, there is that stupendous geographical know-how that serves me so well *rolls eyes*). I don't like to admit this publically, but I rather enjoyed Ally McBeal and I know it was set in Boston - but, unlike a series such as Friends or Sex and the City where the city is almost another character, it didn't give me any better understanding of what Boston is like. Although I do still get nightmares about dancing babies!

8. Miami

Aidan - Bikinis and old people.

Niall - Ah yes. The city where all the pretty people kick about in teeny bikinis. Sun, sea, sand; babes and beach-houses. There's none of that in Scotland - it's all strictly against the law.

Amanda - The Miami Dolphins help to give the impression that this is a sporty, fresh and sunny city. All I can think of is beaches and tourism when people say Miami. Miami is far too sunny for vampires.

9. Detroit

Aidan - Destroyed beauty. Ghost town left in the wake of strong history.

Niall - My only real impressions of Detroit are negative, I'm afraid. Another of Michael Moore's many achievements.

Amanda - Again - probably oddly to you - I have no real impression of Detroit. I *think* it is quite important for car manufacture, but I might be getting the wrong city there. Nope, nothing else coming for poor Detroit.

10. Seattle

Aidan - I've also spent a fair bit of time in Seattle. It's a lot like a Canadian city, only in the states. Lots of young people drinking their coffees.

Niall - One of my most recent reads, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, was set in a Civil War-era steampunk Seattle decimated by the outbreak of a gaseous zombie-making plague. The primacy of that reading experience in my mind means that it's rather stronger than the gorgeous, nearly futuristic city I saw so often in Frasier.

Amanda - Okay, I'm *slightly* more familiar with Seattle but only because the grunge movement started there. I don't know why, but this always leaves me feeling as though Seattle is quite a gloomy rainy place!

Blue Tyson didn't participate in the challenge due to his temporary residence in the US but he did share a few thoughts about the issue in general:
Your average Australian isn't going to give a second thought to Indianapolis, Detroit, etc. generally speaking. as opposed to Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco, say.

You are also right that most Americans would be hard pressed to get past Sydney. ;-)

Just as a general comment, NY or LA = roll the eyes boring as far as a setting for a run of the mill book goes. We have no vested interest in any of the settings or marketing population bases that have to see local, so where it is doesn't matter, and something different is good.

While you can’t prove anything from such a small sample size (feel free to provide your own answers), the evidence does suggest that the most recognizable US cities are significantly less so outside of our borders. Based on these results, I have to ask a few questions:

Do authors consider their target audience when they define their setting?

Do publishers consider setting and their readership when they buy a book set in the real world?

Do readers purchase/enjoy books more when they are familiar with the setting?

Should they?

Covering Covers: Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge

Artist: Vincent Chong

Day job crushed me today so I didn't have time to read or write too much. I did have this gem of a cover in my back pocket though. When I saw that Subterranean Press was coming out with a new Norman Partridge collection, I immediately preordered it. Now Subterranean doesn't publish cheap books but that doesn't mean their editions aren't worth every cent. They really go all out to create beautiful books. And not just the covers but the fonts and the bindings and everything else. It's a guilty pleasure but a pleasure nonetheless.

SubPress does at lot of work with Vincent Chong and it's easy to see why. I love the contrast present in this cover. The bright orange in the title font really stands out against the fade-to-black border that surrounds this curiously lonely farmhouse. It especially emphasizes the "demons" portion of the title which is tied ever so subtlely to the mysterious house by a dusty path.

I'm also a sucker for implied texture and the look of an ancient tattered photograph suggests memories long discarded but not yet faded. Something you keep in your back pocket in a life too unstable to support a frame. It just adds a extra dimension to the cover that I support wholeheartedly. It also makes me think of Paranormal Activity, particularly the especially creepy attic scene. If this cover doesn't sell you, have a look at SubPress's summary:

Tales of hardboiled horror and Twilight Zone noir. Cross-genre blowtorches with bad guys and worse guys. Love stories both dark and bittersweet. A brand new novella and extensive story notes. You’ll find this and more in the fifth collection from three-time Bram Stoker award-winner Norman Partridge, an author Locus calls “one of the most dependable, exciting, and entertaining practitioners of dark suspense and dark fantasy... emphasis on the dark.”

In Lesser Demons, Partridge explores the kind of fiction that made him both a horror fan and a writer. Using the shotgun prose of a crime novel, the title story draws a deadly bead on H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. “The Iron Dead” introduces Chaney, a monster-hunting pulp hero with a mechanical hand built in hell. “Carrion” cuts a mean swath through Robert E. Howard territory, while “The Big Man” explores dark shadows of American life never imagined in the atom-age horror movies of the fifties.
I just recently discovered Partridge (my review of Dark Harvest) but his prose style is so impressive that I'm very excited at the opportunity for more. Additionally, with this collection, I can work toward two of my reading goals this year: consuming more short fiction and exploring the dark catacombs of the horror genre. I don't hit the trifecta (I'm also trying to read more female authors) but two out of three ain't bad. (As a side note, I never did post my reading goals article did I?). Anyway, if you are looking to expand your horizons into something a little more sinister than your typical fantasy, I would definitely give Partridge a chance.

Jan 17, 2010

Stories for Haiti

I'm sure you've seen this by now but if you haven't a number of authors are publishing stories online for Haiti. The idea is that if you read the stories you should donate some money to support relief efforts in Haiti unless you are an uncaring evil pirateface.

And I don't think you are that. So go over there, read, and donate.

Call for Comments: Reviewing Serial Books...

I just finished Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky. I'm currently crafting a review but I don't feel like I can define my enjoyment of the book until I read the subsequent volumes. While some serial books can be read purely as independent volumes, this is not one of those books.

So my question for you is:

When reviewing books that don't have enough individual plot resolution to be considered stand-alone, what are the most important elements to consider in your review?

Jan 16, 2010

Covering Covers: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

Artist Unknown                                             Artist Unknown

Editor's Note: At the time this was written, it wasn't as old news as it is today. Still the US cover sucks and if lots of discussion gets it changed then I'm all for it.

Not to be a content snipe but I saw the UK cover (above right) over at A Dribble of Ink. I think it's okay on the side of good. Based on Aidan's article, I jumped over to Mad Hatter's Book Reviews, which had some very high praise for the book. Abercrombie + Rothfuss. That's like saying Christmas plus Hawaii. So I went to add the book to my Amazon watchlist.

Then I saw the US cover (above left). Say what you will about the UK cover, what the heck is going on with the US cover? I actually like the tree in the background but the hooded guy in the foreground throws the whole cover off. It appears to be traditional hand drawn art. When combined with the stark two-color tree graphic of the background (which I would actually like by itself), it looks like someone tried to sneak a mainstream cover into the SFF section and the GenreGhettoGuard wasn't having it.

I envision a scene in which someone designs that dark tree cover, publishes it, and ships it to the bookstores. GenreGhettoGuard unboxes the editions and is suprised to pull out a book that looks too mainstream for the SFF shelves. His solution? Fantasy sticker! Hand painted cloaked man front and center. Job well done...

Compared with the mess that is the US edition, give me the UK cover anyday. It might be traditional but it evokes the right kind of response. The color and the implied texture of the cover accentuate the fairly standard Aragorn-analog nicely. Cloaked-guy-with-sword appears to be the epic fantasy counter to urban fantasy's tramp-stamped heroine. It's done a lot but occassionally it works. I feel like this is one of those times. The US cover though? Pick a style and stick with it. Lemonade is good. Salmon? Also good. Salmonade? No Thanks. (Note: This was actually tried. Don't Ask)

Follow the links back to more descriptions and early reviews. The Left Hand of God is out now in the UK and comes out in June in the US from Dutton.

Unfortunately for Dutton, early releases + better covers + free worldwide shipping = Book Depository LTD for me.

Jan 15, 2010

I Blame Wil Wheaton

This is why you don't click on Wil Wheaton's twitter links...

Needless to say, I'm on Team Sheldon.

Underread/Underrated Authors

Working on some pieces behind the scenes so nothing new tonight. I did want to point out an interesting discussion at Tor.com (as a result of a question posted by James Nicoll on his livejournal.

The basic question is:

It’s easy to moan about bestsellers you don’t like, but who are the authors that should be getting the sales and the attention and yet remain obscure?

If you head on over to Tor.com there are plenty of interesting names to check out. Not suprisingly I haven't heard of many of them.

If I had to put my own penny-penny into the mix, I would say Timothy Zahn. He's always been an SF favorite of mine whose science fiction is overlooked because of his tie-in work with the Star Wars sequence. His Conquerors' Saga is still one of the best space operas I've ever read. I think I finished 1000 pages in two days or something like that. And his Manta's Gift novel is Avatar set on a gas giant.

The same holds true for Karen Traviss. Her work in Star Wars exposed me to some of her other work, most notably the Wess'Har Books. It's very interesting space opera/military SF stuff if you're into that. Traviss is a bit of an odd duck, not doing interviews and not reading fiction (?!?) but her stuff is too good to let a little thing like that get in the way. I think that tie-in fiction turns a lot of people off from a lot of good authors but thats another conversation for another day.

There are some other names I could suggest like Mary Robinette KowalDaniel Abraham, or Daryl Gregory but they are all still fairly new to the game. Kowal is more underwritten than underread at this point in her career and I can't wait to see more. Abraham does have 6 novels out (that I can think of) so maybe he falls into the criminally underrated category. I have a feeling that once The Dagger and The Coin finally sees the light of day that a lot of people are going to take notice. Gregory only has two books but you have a responsibility to read them if you enjoy things that are supremely enjoyable. Or maybe thats just me.

Damn it. I guess I did have something to say after all.

Jan 13, 2010

My White Whale

My name's Patrick and I'm an biblioholic.

Hi Patrick!!!

Last week at SF Signal, John raised the question "Which books have you bought more than once?"

The answer, at least for me, is not that many. I keep my books nice and I obsessively keep track of what I have so outside of a few beautiful Subterranean Press editions, my collection features few duplicates.

What interested me most about John's post was a picture of his duplicate SF Masterworks titles. I like John, have a few SF Masterworks titles of my own. And by a few, I mean most of them. And by most of them I mean all of them, minus one. It's taken a long time and a lot of help from the UK Book Depository but I've acquired a decent quality edition of every single one of Gollancz

The one book missing from my collection is none other than H.G. Wells's classic, The Invisible Man rereleased as SF Masterworks #47 and assigned ISBN 1-85798-949-X. As a clarification, I didn't need to look that information up. I've memorized it. I've searched what feels like hundreds of websites from foreign Amazon.com sites to online book stores to ebay.co.uk. Nothing. I have various notifications set up if the ISBN appears on some of the better sites.  I've even googled (it's a verb) the ISBN trying to find people that have reviewed the book that might be willing to part with it. Yes it's creepy and no it didn't work. Anytime I happen by a used book store I haven't been in before I stop in a look around. I've found a couple of Year's Best Science Fiction Collection (my other project) but finding used UK editions in the US is like finding a well-adjusted adult Twilight fan.

I've come close. There was the eBay.co.uk auction of 2007, when I refused to pay $120 for a single paperback. There was the false hit of 2008, when a used book store turned up a SF Masterworks edition but shipped me a run of the mill Penguin classic edition. Check the ISBNs! Then there was the shameful false hit of 2009, which I'm fairly confident involved the same shady bookseller. Again, I was promised the SF Masterworks edition. Again, I received a small crappy copy of the book I already had. Those people just don't understand. I hope those isbn ignorant bastards burn in hell with the heat of a hundred thousand suns. Eventually a few days pass and I forget about my white whale. I return to my normal life, not caring about which edition of which book I don't own. But then something triggers my passion again and the cycle starts once more and I hunt this book like Eugene Tooms looks for livers during hibernation season.

This time it was John's post with the picture of his SF Masterworks editions that did it. I've regressed once more into my ISBNOCD.  But 2010 might be my year. A search last week turned up not one but two potential matches. I ordered both. One from Powell's in the US and another from a used bookstore out of the UK. I also picked up a copy of Harlan Ellison's classic anthology Dangerous Visions, another book which has been difficult to get a copy of. Cross your fingers, I might have just landed the big one. We will see what shows up.

Oh and if anyone needs a copy of the regular edition of The Invisible Man you can buy in any bookstore, let me know. I've got two.

Jan 12, 2010

Non-Content Stuff

A few stories of interest that I saw around the interwebs today.

Over at A Dribble of Ink, Aidan has the news that Titan is publishing a Firefly short story anthology. While I think Firefly is fantastic and would have loved to have see Whedon's vision through to completion, I still have mixed feelings about this.

Part of me wants to see more of the story. Firefly is space opera done right. The other part of me doesn't need any more expanded universes. Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Transformers, X-Files, Superman. The list goes on and on. As every video game, tv show, movie, novel, or comic books comes out, it becomes harder and harder to get the "full story". This is especially difficult for people like me who suffer from narrative completism (along with my biblioholism). Sufferers of this imaginary syndrome feel the need to read everything within a shared universe.

Firefly (when combined with Serenity) didn't provide all the details but it did provide an enjoyable experience, one that you could revisit in just a week or two. Feeding more story into the Firefly universe does let us see more of Mal, Jayne, and Wash but there is no guaranteeing the authors will be able to capture the same feel that Whedon and Fillion did. Consider me cautiously interested.

The second story of interest concerns Lev Grossman. Over at The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Reviews, TMH shares the news that Lev Grossman has been contracted to pen a follow up to The Magicians (2009) entitled The Magician King. I haven't read Grossman's debut yet but it is hanging around my To Read Pile. So many other people have read it that I'm hesitant to cover it here but I do want to get to it sometime soon. Congrats to Lev!

Finally, there are only 3 days left to vote in my 2010 series poll. It's just about down to Scalzi's Old Man's War sequence, Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, or Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt Casebooks but someone could always make a surge at the end. Full details here.

Jan 11, 2010

Covering Covers: Zoo City

Here comes a very inappropriately timed non-content post! So sue me.

The cover for Lauren Beukes new book, Zoo City, hit the interwebs today. Her first book, Moxyland, came out last year, and it was one of my favorites (Full Review).

Cover Artist: John Picacio

As far as I know there isn't an official summary yet but I got the following description straight from Lauren herself:

...it's a muti noir set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It's the story of a girl with a sloth on her back, a dirty 419 habit and the magical ability to find lost things who gets drawn into a case to find a missing pop star.
Regarding the cover, I think I liked the Moxyland cover better because the picture file missing icons were very striking and it took that step toward non-traditional stylistic SFF covers that I encourage. At the same time, this is a strong cover that does it's job well. Anyone who reads my cover commentaries knows, I'm not a fan of character-centric covers usually but the way John Picacio integrates the animals into their faces (Zoo? City) makes me wonder if there is some type of integration between the animals and the people. I don't have any idea if it would be a The Golden Compass-esque daemon system or some type of blended DNA but based on the title and the cover, I wouldn't be suprised.

The cold and warm color tones also remind me of the Pyr Fast Forward anthologies. Probably because they were also done by Picacio who has a definite style. Any clue on how to describe it though?

Also, bonus points for avoiding any potential Liar-esque RaceFail. The newer genre imprints have much more forward-thinking publicity and art departments than some of the New York dinosaurs who are only interested in the bottom line.

As far as I can tell, Zoo City comes out in May 2010 in one of the English speaking countries. I'll be sure to grab it when it does. Stay tuned for more details and possibly an interview with Lauren herself.

10 Things I Hate About You(r Blog)

Author's Note: These issues are not addressed at a single blog. They are just general commentary on things that bug me within the genre blogosphere.

10 Things I Hate About You(r Blog)

1. You don't have enough original content

You pad your blog with lots of words that aren’t yours. You post pages and pages of plot summaries and book excerpts with none of your own commentary or thoughts. If you didn't write it, don't post anything longer than a paragraph or two word for word. If it’s longer than that, post a link (always do that anyway) and maybe a brief quote with some of your own thoughts for context. Everything you post should include at least some of your own input. If you don’t care enough to comment about it, why should we care enough to read it? If my RSS feeder says you've posted 30 times in the last two weeks and I can’t find 5 posts with original content, you are failing.

Additionally, if you're content isn't original, for the love of Tolkein, LINK THE SOURCE.

Exception #1: If you wrote the book, by all means excerpt/blurb/quote away. Duh.

Exception #2: Book Covers. They are visual, quick hits that can break up monotonous blocks of text. It’s also a good way to get feedback to the publishers/artists.

2. You pass off summaries as reviews

Tell me why I should or shouldn't read the book you just read. Don't tell exactly what happened in the book you just read. If you are still summarizing the book halfway through the review, you are doing it wrong. I can read the back cover for myself and if I know more than that, why bother reading the book. If you thought the ending was good or bad, don't refrain from saying so but don't explain that the main character's death was poorly written.

Exception: There is nothing wrong with a brief summary (or a link to one). Just avoid spoilers and don’t let it take over the review.

3. Your blog is overly negative

You attack authors or other bloggers on a personal level. You repeatedly revisit books you hated. You troll for comments. I like to read blogs that show me which authors I should be reading. I like to read insightful commentary from people who appear to love the genre. There is plenty of good stuff out there; let’s talk about that. Bad books and crazy authors aren’t worth the attention. If you don’t love what you are blogging, why the hell are you wasting your time? [Yes, I know this is kind of a negative post.]

Exception: If a book sucks, don’t pretend it’s good. But offer constructive points and keep it short.

Exception #2: If you are attacked, feel free to go out Nuclear MAD style. It’s fun to watch.

4. Your blog comes across as pretentious

Very similar to #3. Your authorial tone sounds like you know everything about the genre. You Don’t. You pretend that you’ve read everything. You Haven’t. Don’t confuse personal taste with objective truth. Remember, there is always room for improvement or learning new perspectives.

Exception: Don’t be afraid to take a firm stance of something. Just don’t disregard other’s opinions or provide reasons behind your judgements.

5. You confuse “contest” with “content”

One has a S. One has a N. One can takes some thought and skill. One could be done by a first-grader. If you are going to have contests, keep it in a separate section. I don’t need my RSS feed clogged up with your contest, your contest reminder, and your contest results for each of your dozen contests. I repeat. Contests. Are. Not. Content.

Exception: Contests with a purpose are fine. If you are an author giving away exclusive ARCs in exchange for the best themed submissions, go for it. Charity contests are certainly acceptable. But if you are holding contests for page views, get better priorities.

6. Your blog is too difficult to contribute to

If I have to log in, friend you on facebook, and then confirm the comment in my email, I'm not going to comment on your site.

Exception: Avoiding spam is worth a little bit of a hassle as long as everything I need to do is on one page.

7. Your blog is overly monetized

I see your jungle of ads. I see your Amazon affiliate links. I see what publishers send you free books. I don’t see the point where you acknowledged you were selling out. If your blog looks like a pop-up add, you’ve got a problem.

Exception: There is nothing wrong with getting free books, having advertisements, or using the AAP. Just don’t let it impact your credibility, readability, or honesty.

8. Your blog is stagnant

You are reading the same kind of books, focusing on the same authors, posting the same kind of reviews, and repeating the same kind of discussions. While you might love the specific subgenre If things are getting overly routine, challenge yourself. Look at some books you wouldn't normally read.

Interview your favorite authors. Try and find some up-and-comers. Analyze the publishing industry from an abnormal persepctive. Doing something new and different can often reinvigorate your love for the genre and increase the quality on your blog.

Exception: Don’t confuse consistency with stagnation. If you post a great essay on the state of various sub-genres, keep going.

9. You misrepresent your blog

If you say your focus is books, don’t only post on TV and video games. If you say are content-focused, be more than a news/links aggregator. If you an author or don’t work for a publisher, don’t hide it.

Exception: As I said in #8, there is nothing wrong with switching things up and doing different things. Just don’t lose sight of your core audience.

10. You treat authors like Word-Machines instead of people

This is a big one. Authors don't owe you anything (unless you are an editor that has them under contract). They are people with families who want to enjoy life the same as you. Granted, it's a good idea for them to deliver complete stories in a reasonable amount of time but if an author is taking their time, read something else. There is more quality writing out there than any one person can hope to read. I refer you to #3.

Additionally, authors are busy people who aren't particularly well  compensated. Every blog post, interview, and comment is something that they didn't have to do. Don't ever expect or demand an author to supply you free content.

Exception: GRRM. Come on man. When do I get A Dance With Dragons? You deserve everything you get [just kidding. somewhat.]
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