Apr 21, 2010

Covering Covers: Occultation and Other Stories - Laird Barron

Laird Barron's 2nd collection, Occultation, comes out this spring from Night Shade Books. Here's the cover.

Cover Artist: Matthew Jaffe
Cover Design: Claudia Noble

I'm somewhat of a horror novice but from what I've read Laird Barron qualifies as a genre up and comer. Whoever wrote Occultation's blurb agrees:

Laird Barron has emerged as one of the strongest voices in modern horror and dark fantasy fiction, building on the eldritch tradition pioneered by writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti. His stories have garnered critical acclaim and been reprinted in numerous year's best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. His debut collection, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, was the inaugural winner of the Shirley Jackson Award.

He returns with his second collection, Occultation. Pitting ordinary men and women against a carnivorous, chaotic cosmos, Occultation's eight tales of terror (two never before published) include the Theodore Sturgeon and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story "The Forest" and Shirley Jackson Award nominee "The Lagerstatte." Featuring an introduction by Michael Shea, Occultation brings more of the spine-chillingly sublime cosmic horror Laird Barron's fans have come to expect.
  • Introduction by Michael Shea
  • The Forest
  • Occultation
  • The Lagerstatte
  • Mysterium Tremendum (original to this collection)
  • Catch Hell
  • Strappado
  • The Broadsword
  • --30-- (original to this collection) (edited by author)
I actually like the cover to Barron's first collection, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, more, mostly because covers with naked people tend to produce strange looks on the CTA buses. Not as many as actual naked people but I've got a reputation to uphold. Besides the random nudity, the cover is decent enough although I'm not sure how well it targets the intended audience. On the other hand, I don't know who the audience is for horror themed short fiction collections and what that audience reacts to. Does that reader base even go into brick and mortar stores looking for new collections? Those questions aside I'm still very excited for this collection despite my reservations with the nudity of the cover.

Occultation is scheduled to hit shelves on May 15th, 2010.

Apr 19, 2010

YetiMoon: Open Call for Content


In the near future, yours truly will be taking an extended leave of absence. Don't worry, I should be back in a few weeks. I'm taking the soon-to-be Mrs. Yetistomper on a bit of a peregrination to celebrate our imminent nuptials and to reward her for putting up with my unabashed geekery for far too long. [She just helped me move my 1,000+ book collection from one apartment to another.]

During that time, I will be completely AFK and aside from a few posts that I have prepared in advance, things will be pretty slow around here.

That is, unless any bloggers, authors, or other genre informed people would be interested in composing a short guest post to keep things interesting around here. Think of it as a wedding gift for all the quality content words you've read here in the past several months. You can talk about your book, your blog, or whatever you want [pending my editorial discretion].

If you are interesting in contributing something but don't have any idea what to write about, here are a couple topics that I've been toying with recently.

-The underlying differences in the cover philosophies of UK and US publishers
-Overused and underrated interview topics
-How to give a good person a bad review
-Does a blogger "owe" anything to a publisher?
-Numerical Ratings: Why or Why Not?

If you would be interested in contributing a guest post help to fill the vacancy, please reach out to me via my blog email address: YetiStomper[at] gmail[dot]com

Congratulations to Ted Kosmatka!

Last week, word around the twitterverse was congratulations were in order as short fiction author Ted Kosmatka has sold his first novel!

Kosmatka is an author I've been watching since I interviewed him as part of my Keeping An Eye On series [and one well worth watching]. I reached out to Ted to offer my congratulations and find out a little bit more about the sale so I could share the good news with whoever reads this here.

The novel will be published by Del Rey and is tentatively titled The Helix Game.

Here is what Ted had to say:

The novel is a totally new, and not based on any of my previously published work, though it it does sit in the same general wheelhouse as my shorter fiction. It's a hard sci-fi set partially in laboratories, and it deals with genetics, virtual reality, and nature consciousness, among other things. Also, there's genetically engineered creatures. And the Olympics. And did I mention creatures?
Sound very interesting especially considering it's coming from Kosmatka. Unfortunately, there isn't an estimated release date at this point so there's no way of knowing how long until I can get my hands on it. Look for updated information as it comes available.

Congratulations again to Ted!

Apr 17, 2010

YetiReview: Lesser Demons and Other Stories by Norman Partridge

30 words or less: A showcase of pulp heroics, sharp prose and dark horror, Lesser Demons delivers the American blend of horror quickly becoming synonymous with the name Norman Partridge.

My Rating: 4/5

Pros: Fantastic prose with a distinctive structure that reads smoothly; Stories that recall the pulp adventures of the past while delivering a second layer of commentary; Small town American characters that are recognizable and relatable.

Cons: While good, the majority of the stories share a similar voice and tone; Collection lacks a diverse set of characters; Surreal stories not as strong as the rest of them.

The Review: Norman Partridge is an American Horror writer. By that I don’t mean he was born below Canada and above Mexico; I mean he’s a writer, a damn good one, and when he writes horror, he writes American horror. Cowboys and criminals, lawmen and drifters, soldiers and strangers. Hard edged men forged from US steel who take whatever life gives them without complaint and chase it with shot of straight whiskey. Partridge’s latest collection from the always impressive Subterranean Press is no different, full of characters ripped from the pages of classic westerns and noir mysteries. These men are given hell and more in the 10 stories that comprise Lesser Demons and Other Stories and with the rich prose that appears to be Partridge’s trademark, it’s hard not to enjoy their misery.

His prose reads like a well cooked cut of steak - thick, juicy, and oh so delicious. It’s the kind of meal that you just close your eyes and savor, chewing slowly to enjoy every last bite. This analogy is an apt one as the stories in this collection are best enjoyed in the same way. You wouldn’t try to pack away ten sirloins in one sitting and if you did, you wouldn’t enjoy it as much as if you had taken your time. Many of these stories seem to be built around similar character archetypes and when taken in quick succession, they begin to blend together. The majority of Partridge’s characters are rough souls from rougher backgrounds, often coming to grips with the type of men they are at the same time providing subtle commentary on the genres they typically inhabit.

One particular similarity is the unexplained marginalization of female characters. When they are present, they are more often than not victims or relegated to forgettable background roles. To be fair, Partridge does work in very masculine settings and many of the pulpy stories he emulates here are guilty of the same crime. The stories in Lesser Demons are born from westerns and monster movies, full of violent men and violent acts. To change the characters from the source material they are derived from would be to give up part of their core essence, something that Partridge holds dear based on the standard style of his writing.

Here is an individual look at each of the stories in this collection and the characters within.

Second Chance – 3.5/5 - A dispute over ill-gotten gains turns out to be a bit more complicated than first glance would reveal in Second Chance. Partridge does a great job of drawing the reader in with the first story in Lesser Demons but ultimately leaves a little too much unsaid leaving the final twist somewhat unclear.

The Big Man4.5/5 – A local bigshot, a literal giant, and an orphaned boy are the three principal characters in this small town story that some may recognize as an homage to the 50-foot monster stories B-movies of the past.. But which is The Big Man indicated by the title? That question and the amount of emotion Partridge is able to evoke in only a few pages really gave this story an extra layer that I enjoyed.

Lesser Demons 5/5 – One of the best stories in the collection of the same name, Lesser Demons engenders feelings of I Am Legend mixed with just a touch of Lovecraftian horror. The simple sheriff doesn’t care who or what caused the outbreak of horrible monstrosities plaguing his town, he just does what it takes to survive, one day at a time. Lesser Demons really illustrates Partridges defining qualities; rich, flavorful prose, relatable “small-town American” characters, and a dark predilection for unromanticized violence.

Carrion - 3/5 – A chance meeting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere ends the life of a former soldier and intertwines the destiny of three other unfortunate souls, driving them to a mysterious house in the desert, one whose windows don’t look out on the same world that you left when you entered it. I enjoyed the lawless Western feel of the plot but the surreal nature of the house and the encircling vultures left me a little cold.

The Fourth Stair up from the Second Landing - 3/5 – A bit more subdued that the average tale in this collection, The Fourth Stair is better categorized as psychological horror. The Fourth Stair up from the Second Landing marks a place where lives end and lives begin and it begins to haunt the minds of the mother and son who step over it on a daily basis. While there was nothing to complain about, I simply didn’t enjoy this story the way I did the majority of this collection.

And What Did You See in the World?3/5 – This is a strange story and honestly one I couldn’t really wrap my head around. I found the characters and their peculiarities both repulsive and intriguing especially the way Partridge keeps you guessing as to who the crazy one really is. This is one of those stories that are short enough to experiment with something different without wearing out its welcome in a longer format.

Road Dogs3.5/5 – If paranormal romance is turning werewolves into little more than lusty Chihuahuas, Partridge has something to say about it. His werewolves are mangy, violent beasts more likely to rip your heart out than to break it (as they should be). Drawing parallels between the savagery of spousal abuse and the irrational loyalty of family blood ties with the animal instincts of canines, Partridge sharpens the claws of a tired cliché. Although the characters are for the most part unlikeable, Road Dogs again demonstrates Partridge’s ability for crafting realistic, small-town-American characters. An American Werewolf in Paris? More like A Whitetrash Werewolf in Bumf***, Nowhere.

The House Inside 1.5/5 – Reading like a horror version of Toy Story, The House Inside is the most surreal of all the stories in the collection and my least favorite. Surprisingly, I don’t enjoy surreal very much and this story didn’t change my opinion much. It might have been the fact that the main characters are plastic cowboys and Indians and little green army men that inexplicably spring to life under a strangely powerful sun or the fact that they continued to ask why when no answers would have made sense. The plastic violence just fell flat. I need an internal logic to my stories and when that isn’t there, I start to lose focus.

Durston - 5/5 – Haunted by his past and his reputation, the titular cowboy attempts to put his dark past behind him in this gritty tale of guns and guilt. Durston has blood money in his pocket: money he can’t scrub clean and he can’t gift away. The stark characterization of Durston and his quest for redemption is compelling and multifaceted. Again, Partridge takes a story typically linked with pulp fiction and gives it a third dimension focusing on acts of violence and death and the way humans deal with the resulting realities. Partridge’s razor sharp prose is brilliant in all of his stories but I think it really stands out especially well in Durston.

The Iron Dead5/5 - In what I felt this was the strongest story in the collection, Partridge gives us a badass pulp-tacular hero in the mysterious Chaney as well as an unrelenting evil to rally against. A minion of the devil himself has come to town in prohibition era America, one who slaughters without mercy and rebuilds the mutilated remains of his victims into perverse foot soldiers using whatever spare parts he can find, be they metal or man. Chaney is the last of a group of mortals sworn to end this demon’s terrible reign. This story represents Partridge at his best, gory and violent, making pulp plots read like fine literature. In A Few Words after, a brief essay about the stories in this collection, Partridge mentions that we may be seeing more of Chaney and his hell-forged hand in the future. Yes. Please.

Despite the similarities between several of the stories, there is no denying that Partridge has mastered a blend of classic pulp and literary metaphor using his gift for prose to craft tales that are enjoyable, evocative, and undeniably American. Razor sharp with a wit as dark as the hearts of his heroes, Partridge is simply one of the best prose stylists I’ve ever read. Provided you have the stomach for it, you won’t regret pulling the trigger on Lesser Demons.

Apr 13, 2010

Paolobias Buckelligalupi Goodness!

No, that's not the scientific name of a recently discovered Madagascan tree frog. It's the portmanteaux SuperCoupling of outstanding SF writers Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell. Why are they a SuperCouple?

But which is which?

Because they have written a shared world fantasy double novella due out this summer. Tobias Buckell broke the news on his blog this morning.

So I’ve talked about a novella I’ve been fiddling around with for the last year, The Executioness, off and on. I’m happy to report that it’s finished. But that’s not all.

The Executioness is going to be one of two novellas, put together back to back (like the old Ace doubles) to create a larger project that is about as long as a short novel. The other novella was written by Paolo Bacigalupi and is called The Alchemist. Together they’ll be The Alchemist & The Executioness.

The next twist is that both novellas share the same background. We created a world, characters, places, and each novella uses that. So together they create a cool glimpse at this world Paolo and I made. Both of us were also excited to write something we don’t get a chance to write often: Fantasy. With our own unique takes, of course.
I haven't read any fantasy by either Buckell or Bacigalupi but both authors are talented enough to get my attention if they are writing almost anything short of Twilight fanfic. This seems along the same lines as Metatropolis, a 5 author collaborative world written by Buckell along with Jay Lake, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, and Karl Schroeder albeit in a fantasy setting instead of SF.

You will be able to consume The Alchemist & The Executioness sometime this summer but unfortunately it's only scheduled to be released in audio version from Audible.com. I don't like listening to books on tape (I'm far too easily distracted visually to concentrate on audio for the majority of the day and I'm liable to fall asleep when I can close my eyes and listen). On the other hand, I'm sure this will be out in a print/eBook edition from Subterranean Press or some other publishers at some point in the next year or two.

I do think it's funny that they are doing a double novella (Buckell references those old Ace PB doubles to which we need to return) in an audio format. The two books bound together works but these are just going to be two audio files sold together and packaged in the same download (I think). Maybe I will record them on a two-side cassette tape just for fun.

Paolobias Buckelligalupi should be pure awesomeness incarnate. Keep your eyes ears open for this one.

Apr 8, 2010

John Scalzi's Secret Project Revealed!

If you've been reading John Scalzi's blog, Whatever, (hint: you should be!) you would know that Mr. Scalzi has been dropping hints about a Super Secret Project That [He] Cannot Tell You About for some time.

And if you read Whatever, you probably also enjoy Scalzi's fiction and know that Scalzi hasn't published a full length novel since 2008's Zoe's Tale and after the release of The God Engines in late 2009 (Hugo nominated novella) he doesn't have any work on the publishing calendar in the near future

So what has Scalzi been up to beside his creative consultant gig on Stargate Universe?


Yes. Fan. Fiction.

Fanfiction in H. Beam Piper's "Little Fuzzy" universe to be exact. Scalzi is rebooting the original Hugo nominated story. You can read the absurdly unexpected details on Scalzi's blog here.

The difference between Scalzi's fan-fiction and yours is that he is a professional writer who has professional writing connections. After writing this Fuzzy Nation novel without a publishing contract and without permission from the Piper estate, Scalzi gained permission to write in the Fuzzy universe and is currently shopping the novel to publishers. I bet he will sell it too.

Cover (unofficial) Artist: Jeff Zugale

To be honest, I typically don't like when authors do this. But unlike Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing... and Frank Herbert's veritable plethora of Dune sequels, I've never read the source material. I don't have any warm fuzzy feelings for the original so I won't feel like my childhood has been raped if Scalzi takes a liberty or two with the original characters or plot.

Whether its fiction or just a polemic about the latest government woes, Scalzi is one of my favorite writers so this is a book I will probably end up reading (if it gets published, that is), even if it doesn't make me feel "fuzzy" at first glance.

On a side note, the original Little Fuzzy is in the public domain so Wooooooo! - Free Kindle Edition!

Apr 7, 2010

Covering Covers: The Evolutionary Void - Peter F. Hamilton

Late this summer, Peter F. Hamilton, "Britain's Number One Science Fiction Writer," completes his latest trilogy with the release of The Evolutionary Void, out August 31st in the US and September 10th in the UK.  Regardless of whether or not that moniker is true, there is no denying that Hamilton is one of the premiere SF authors writing today. I was browsing the Del Rey summer/fall catalog and I was impressed by the US cover so I thought I would share it here along with the UK cover art for reference. 

Cover Artist: John Harris                       Cover Artist: Steve Stone 

Atypically, I would have to say that the US cover is vastly superior. Mostly because of the sharpness of the image and the clean feel of the text. The UK cover's text looks like bad WordArt from an old edition of MS Word. The Peter F. Hamilton is a little large on the US cover but I love the vibrant yellow color and the tear away view of a space scene. It's fairly generic but still stunning. You aren't going to get a Hamilton novel without some sign that its Science Fiction. I think the US cover is superior compositionally as well. Regardless of which one I find more pleasing, I think both are successful in the respect that they communicate the core message: this is an SF novel by Peter F. Hamilton with SPACESHIPS!

And this trend of cover art isn't restricted to just the third volume, here are side by side comparisons of The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void, Books 1 and 2 in the Void Trilogy. John Harris is the cover artist for all three US covers and Jim Burns is responsible for the first and second UK editions. There is something about the UK covers that just looks rough. It might be the font or the sharpness of the image, I'm not sure but I like the US covers much better. The US covers are also more cohesive looking.

I think the US wins hands down but I'm trying to build a poll for this to see what you readers think.

On a related note, I never realized that John Harris was responsible for so many of my favorite SF covers. Ender's Game, Old Man's War, a few Jack McDevitt and Allen Steele covers. Check out the full list here.

Unfortunately a detailed description of The Evolutionary Void was not available.

Apr 6, 2010

F*** You Tor! (a.k.a. Covering Covers: Antiphon)

I woke up this morning to a wonderful spring day. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and I was facing a 4 day work week (moving day is Friday).

And then I see this post over on The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review...

My response: F*** You Tor!

Antiphon, book 3 in Ken Scholes' fantasy quintet, The Psalms of Isaak, is coming out this fall. And guess what? They are abandoning the cover style of the first two books in favor of something that looks like a lovechild between Malazan Books of the Fallen and Mistborn.

Here's the cover.

Cover Artist: Chris McGrath

Now I don't have any problems with this cover by itself. I like the work McGrath has done with The Dresden Files and the implied texture gives a gritty feel to his art. The font is interesting and while it's a little cartoonish, it is distinct. But there was nothing wrong with the original covers by Greg Manchess. In fact, I felt like Manchess's covers were some of the best fantasy covers out there. I remember when Tor was proudly pimping the artistic process behind Canticle on Tor.com. How quickly we forget...

Original Cover Artist: Greg Manchess

Why create a distinctive cover style if your are going to change it after two frakking books? This isn't Stephen King's Dark Tower series where he went 15 years between books. The last book came out in November! Did you forget already? People aren't going to see the new cover and say oh look there is the sequel to Lamentation and Canticle. They are going to buy the book and then be confused when they realize it's actually the third book in the series. Maybe its some "brilliant" scheme by Tor to trick people into buying the third book (or rebuying the 2nd) and then being forced to buy the other volumes.

Shame on you, Tor. You couldn't leave well enough alone. And Steven Erikson wants you to let him know when you are done using his wolf...

Why fix something that was never broken? I might be able to forgive Tor eventually (they are still publishing good books), but my bookshelf sure won't. Can I at least have a custom dust jacket?

Apr 2, 2010

Covering Covers: With Great Power - Lou Anders [ed.]

Lou Ander's superhero anthology has been one I've been eagerly anticipating since I heard about it. Assuming it wasn't just an April Fool's Day prank, Lou debuted the cover of With Great Power . . . over on his blog.

Cover Artist: Trevor Hairsine

Aside from the Edited by Lou Anders corner (which seems out of place at first before you realize its a comic tag like "Meanwhile") I think this cover is really strong. It conveys a strong comic book vibe with a mysterious character (hero or villain?) posed against a disastrous background. I like the way the lines of the cape flow into the diagonally set text which works well to make the cover feel less text heavy than it actually is. The art is simple but powerful and I like the little imperfections in the strange hero's costume. And no one can deny that it's going to catch the eye of the comic book audience (but will they be in the prose section of the bookstore anyway?)

Another interesting note is that the character on the cover isn't actually in the book. According to Lou Anders this is for two reasons "One, wanted something to convey the entire book, not just one story. Two, in comics, when an artist illustrates a character for the first time, they share in copyright. Assured the comic writers who contributed to this only they owned the characters they created." I know comic book character ownership has been a much debated issue over the years and it's strange to see the effects even here on the cover of a prose anthology. Never can be too careful with your work, I suppose.

In case you missed the post the first time around, here is the Table of Contents again.
  • Introduction: The Golden Age - Lou Anders
  • "Cleansed and Set in Gold" - Matthew Sturges
  • "Where their Worm Dieth Not" - James Maxey
  • "Secret Identity" - Paul Cornell
  • "The Non-Event" - Mike Carey
  • "Avatar" - Mike Baron
  • "Message from the Bubblegum Factory" - Daryl Gregory
  • "Thug" - Gail Simone
  • "Vacuum Lad" - Stephen Baxter
  • "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows" - Chris Roberson
  • "Head Cases" - Peter David & Kathleen David
  • "Downfall" - Joseph Mallozzi
  • "By My Works You Shall Know Me" - Mark Chadbourn
  • "Call Her Savage" - Marjorie M. Liu
  • "Tonight we fly" - Ian McDonald
  • "A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)" - Bill Willingham
With Great Power . . . comes out July 20th. I can't wait.
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