May 25, 2011

Covering Covers: Goliath - Scott Westerfeld

In the continuing adventures of cover art gone wrong, I present to you the third and final book in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan Trilogy, Goliath.

Has there ever been a larger disparity between internal and external art?

Interior Illustrations by Keith Thompson

At least the writing quality is consistent. Goliath will be out from Simon Pulse on September 20th, 2011.

May 23, 2011

For The Win: A Guide To 2011's Best of the Best

The world today is a terrible place. Poverty is rampant. The economy is falling apart. The rapture is coming The Situation is poised to make $5,000,000 next year. Everything causes cancer. Bees are dying. Transformers 3 is a real movie...

And of course, the most lamentable of them all - the lack of a single, definitive award for speculative fiction.

As it stands, there's a heaping handful of awards, each award with it's own handful of categories, and each category with it's own handful of nominations. That's a borderline Cthulu number of hands. Good luck comprehending that, spellcheck certainly can't. And to make matters worse, each award maintains its own eligibility, nomination, and voting criteria. Some prizes are only for works by US authors, others for those books unlucky enough to be published in paperback only. A few selections are made by informed but potential biased juries. A few more honors are awarded by the masses. The same slavering masses that decided that Twilight was okay for a ten-year-old girl. But don't worry, they can only vote if they buy a voting membership to last year's conference's cousin's friend's book signing. Or click a button online. And everything depends on how many words are in the story to begin with. In fact, the length of the story is inversely propotional to how many people will read it and the how long the word used to describe it is. And god help us if Neil Gaiman, Ted Chiang, China Mieville, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Connie Willis ever end publishing a novelette in the same year. That's a true end-world scenario.

Never re-examine your childhood.

Needless to say, it's a mess.

Trying to figure out what is clearly the best book is like trying to collect all the Pokemon - just when you think you've got a handle on it, there's a brand new batch of innocent creatures to enslave for forced gladiatorial combat books to read. Which is where the calculus comes in.

By deriving the mathematical mean of the page counts of each book's negative inverse matrix within three standard deviations and then integrated the eigenvectors with an acceleration vector aligned to a rotating coordinate frame, I was able to prove what the best books were as well as recalculate the timing of the much discussed rapture event. It's a Thursday. Oh, that bullshit you say? Did you forget to carry the one?

Suck it, Newton.
What I really mean to leverage from calculus is the Leibniz-Newton model, the core premise of which is if multiple people come to the same conclusion independently, it's more likely to be true.

To support this hypothesis, I compiled a list of every nominated work for every major science fiction, fantasy, and horror award I could find and combined them into one glorious glut of celebrated fiction, conveniently sorted below for your perusal. Every novel, novella, novelette, and short story on this list (told you the words get longer) received at least two major award nominations which, in my mind at least, is a sign that they are worth taking another look at.

Note: This list is currently is based on the 2011 nominations for Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Philip K. Dick, Andre Norton, BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke, Gemmell, Bram Stoker, and Shirley Jackson awards. World Fantasy nominations are not currently available. Feel free to suggest other awards in the comments.


The Dervish House - Ian McDonald [4 Nominations: Hugo, Locus, BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke]

It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.

Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

Gas is power. But it's power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.

The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions' League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher.

The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core--the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself--that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama and a ticking clock of a thriller. (Pyr)

Blackout / All Clear - Connie Willis [3 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula, Locus]

Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past. (Spectra)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin [3 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula, Locus]

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the debut novel from a major new voice in fantasy fiction. (Orbit)

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi [2 Nominations: Andre Norton, Locus]

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . .

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future. (Little, Brown)

The Reapers Are the Angels - Alden Bell [2 Nominations: Philip K. Dick, Shirley Jackson]

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks. (Henry Holt & Co.)

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes [2 Nominations: BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke]

Where no one else date venture...

Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty online 419 scam habit – and a talent for finding lost things. But when her latest client, a little old lady, turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons

An astonishing second novel from the author of the highly-acclaimed Moxyland. (Angry Robot)

Cryoburn - Lois McMaster Bujold [2 Nominations: Hugo, Locus]

Miles Vorkosigan is back!

Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble! (Baen)

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins [2 Nominations: Andre Norton, Locus]

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year. (Scholastic)

Feed - Mira Grant [2 Nominations: Hugo, Shirley Jackson]

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. (Orbit)

Shades of Milk and Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal [2 Nominations: Nebula, Locus]

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer. (Tor)

Who Fears Death? - Nnedi Okorafor [2 Nominations: Nebula, Locus]

The critically-acclaimed novel-now in paperback.

In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers she possesses a remarkable and unique magic. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to confront nature, tradition, history, the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and eventually to learn why she was given the unusual name she bears: Who Fears Death? (DAW)

I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett [2 Nominations: Locus, Andre Norton]

It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone—or something—is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root—before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laugh-out-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil. (Haper Collins)

A Dark Matter - Peter Straub [2 Nominations: Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson]

On a Midwestern campus in the 1960s, a charismatic guru and his young acolytes perform a secret ritual in a local meadow.  What happens is a mystery—all that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body and the shattered souls of all who were present.  Forty years later, one man seeks to learn about that horrifying night, and to do so he’ll have to force those involved to examine the unspeakable events that have haunted them ever since. Unfolding through their individual stories, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that proves Peter Straub to be the master of modern horror. (DoubleDay)

Lightborn - Tricia Sullivan [2 Nominations: BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke]

Lightborn, better known as 'shine', is a mind-altering technology that has revolutionised the modern world. It is the ultimate in education, self-improvement and entertainment - beamed directly into the brain of anyone who can meet the asking price. But in the city of Los Sombres, renegade shine has attacked the adult population, resulting in social chaos and widespread insanity in everyone past the age of puberty. The only solution has been to turn off the Field and isolate the city. Trapped within the quarantine perimeter, fourteen-year-old Xavier just wants to find the drug that can keep his own physical maturity at bay until the army shuts down the shine. That's how he meets Roksana, mysteriously impervious to shine and devoted to helping the stricken. As the military invades street by street, Xavier and Roksana discover that there could be hope for Los Sombres - but only if Xavier will allow a lightborn cure to enter his mind. What he doesn't know is that the shine in question has a mind of its own ... (Orbit)

Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld [2 Nominations: Andre Norton, Locus]

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead. (Simon & Schuster)


Haunted Legends - Ellen Datlow & Nick Mamatas, eds. [2 Nominations: Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson]

Darkly thrilling, these twenty new ghost stories have all the chills and power of traditional ghost stories, but each tale is a unique retelling of an urban legend from the world over.

Multiple award-winning editor Ellen Datlow and award-nominated author and editor Nick Mamatas recruited Jeffrey Ford, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin Kiernan, Catherynne M. Valente, Kit Reed, Ekaterina Sedia, and thirteen other fine writers to create stories unlike any they've written before. Tales to make readers shiver with fear, jump at noises in the night, keep the lights on.

These twenty nightmares, brought together by two renowned editors of the dark fantastic, are delightful visions sure to send shivers down the spines of horror readers. (Tor)

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery - Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders, eds. [2 Nominations: Locus, Shirley Jackson]

Seventeen original tales of sword and sorcery penned by masters old and new

Elric . . . the Black Company . . . Majipoor. For years, these have been some of the names that have captured the hearts of generations of readers and embodied the sword and sorcery genre. And now some of the most beloved and bestselling fantasy writers working today deliver stunning all-new sword and sorcery stories in an anthology of small stakes but high action, grim humor mixed with gritty violence, fierce monsters and fabulous treasures, and, of course, swordplay. Don't miss the adventure of the decade! (Harper Voyager)


Occultation - Laird Barron [2 Nominations: Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson]

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. (Night Shade Books)

What I Didn't See: Stories - Karen Joy Fowler [2 Nominations: Locus, Shirley Jackson]

In her moving and elegant new collection, New York Times bestseller Karen Joy Fowler writes about John Wilkes Booth's younger brother, a one-winged man, a California cult, and a pair of twins, and she digs into our past, present, and future in the quiet, witty, and incisive way only she can.

The sinister and the magical are always lurking just below the surface: for a mother who invents a fairy-tale world for her son in "Halfway People"; for Edwin Booth in "Edwin's Ghost," haunted by his fame as "America's Hamlet" and his brother's terrible actions; for Norah, a rebellious teenager facing torture in "The Pelican Bar" as she confronts Mama Strong, the sadistic boss of a rehabilitation facility; for the narrator recounting her descent in "What I Didn't See."

With clear and insightful prose, Fowler's stories measure the human capacities for hope and despair, brutality and kindness. This collection, which includes two Nebula Award winners, is sure to delight readers, even as it pulls the rug out from underneath them. (Small Beer Press)

The Ones That Got Away - Stephen Graham Jones [2 Nominations: Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson]

These thirteen stories are our own lives, inside out. A boy's summer romance doesn't end in that good kind of heartbreak, but in blood. A girl on a fishing trip makes a friend in the woods who's exactly what she needs, except then that friend follows her back to the city. A father hears a voice through his baby monitor that shouldn't be possible, but now he can't stop listening. A woman finds out that the shipwreck wasn't the disaster, but who she's shipwrecked with. A big brother learns just what he will, and won't, trade for one night of sleep. From prison guards making unholy alliances to snake-oil men in the Old West doling out justice, these stories carve down into the body of the mind, into our most base fears and certainties, and there's no anesthetic. Turn the light on if you want, but that just makes for more shadows. (Prime Books)


"The Lifecycle of Software Objects" - Ted Chiang - Subterranean - Read Online [3 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula, Locus]

"The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window" - Rachel Swirsky - Subterranean Press - Read Online  [3 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula, Locus]

"The Sultan of the Clouds" - Geoffrey A. Landis - Asimov’s September 2010 - Read PDF [2 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula]

"Troika" - Alastair Reynolds - Godlike Machines [2 Nominations:  Hugo, Locus]


"Plus or Minus" - James Patrick Kelly - Asimov’s December 2010 - Read Online [3 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula, Locus]

"The Jaguar House, in Shadow" - Aliette de Bodard - Asimov’s July 2010 - Read Online [2 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula]

"The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" - Neil Gaiman - Stories: All-New Tales - Read Online [2 Nominations: Locus, Shirley Jackson]

"That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" - Eric James Stone - Analog September 2010 - Read Online [2 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula]

Short Stories

"The Things" - Peter Watts - Clarkesworld January 2010 - Read Online [4 Nominations: Hugo, Locus, BSFA, Shirley Jackson]

"Booth’s Ghost" - Karen Joy Fowler - What I Didn't See: Stories [2 Nominations:  Locus, Shirley Jackson]

"Ponies" - Kij Johnson - - January 17th, 2010 - Read Online [2 Nominations: Hugo, Nebula]

All in all, a pretty good list, no? I'll try to keep this up to date as further nominations and winners are announced.

May 19, 2011

Covering Covers: Unpossible - Daryl Gregory

Last week, Daryl Gregory debuted the cover of his upcoming Fairwood Press collection, Unpossible and Other Stories, as designed by Italian artist and illustrator, Antonello Silverini.

Cover Artist: Antonello Silverini

If you don't recognize the name, Daryl Gregory is a relatively new novelist whose first two novels, Pandemonium and The Devil's Alphabet, have earned him a sterling reputation here at Stomping on Yeti. While his work is undeniably genre-ic, it's never escapist. Gregory might dress his fiction in pulp demons and mutated monsters but at its core its some heavy stuff, reflecting on what it really means to "grow up", the double-edged sword of family, and the sheer terror of realizing your own place in this world. To put it more plainly, it's like my genretacular childhood and my angst-ridden twenty-something present met up, fell in love, and had a baby. With tentacles.

Returning to Silverini's brilliant cover, I can't help but admire the simplistic beauty of the composition. As is the case in many of his pieces, Silverini takes several disparate images and combines them in wondrous fashion. In doing so, he pulls the observer in to contemplate what each element represents. Why is there a cable car in a grassy field? Why does one figure have a different face? What does the faded American flag represent? What's with the dog? Why is the word sightseeing included?

To try suss a little bit more meaning out of this enigmatic image, I queried Gregory himself. Here's what he had to say:

As for the cover, Antonello's usual method is to read the text and start using the images that speak to him. The only parameters we gave him were (a) it's an eclectic collection, covering SF, fantasy, and weird stuff, so it shouldn't suggest that it's in one genre (for example, no spaceships, which he wouldn't do anyway) and (b) make it something he'd be proud to put in his portfolio.

He ended up using images from the title story, which is about a middle aged man who used to be one of those adventuresome kids, like the boys from Where the Wild Things Are and The Phantom Tollbooth. But now he's grown up, life has not gone as planned, and he's trying desperately to get back into "the lands beyond." And that's pretty much a metaphor for what I'm trying to do in these stories -- get back into the story.
To me the lack of clear thematic direction is also emblematic of Gregory's work as a whole. Like celebrated genre author, China Mieville, the only real commonality in Gregory's diverse portfolio is a uniform high level of quality. The only type of tale you can safely expect is a good one. While the Table of Contents of Unpossible is still in flux, I'd assume it would include the titular short, "Unpossible", as well as some of Gregory's more popular pieces in "Second Person, Present Tense" and "The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm." I follow Gregory's output pretty closely, so I'll be sure to provide an update when it's available.

Unpossible and Other Stories should be available from Fairwood Press in October 2011. In the meantime, go read Pandemonium and/or The Devil's Alphabet. You can thank me later.

May 11, 2011

Three Things to Think About: Douglas Adams

1. Douglas Adams died ten years ago today at the age of 49. Considering how productive many writers are late into their lives, it clear that the genre was robbed of one it's best much, much too soon. If you haven't read any of Adams' brilliant work, please do so. It's indescribably good.

2. He was 27 when he wrote A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. That's about my age. I feel profoundly unproductive.

3. Is there a more perfect passage than the improbable appearance of a whale and a bowl of petunias in all of science fiction?
"Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah ... ! What's happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?


Why am I here? What's my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now ... oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It's a sort of ... yawning, tingling sensation in my ... my ... well I suppose I'd better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let's call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it's getting quite strong. And hey, what's about this whistling roaring sound going past what I'm suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that ... wind! Is that a good name? It'll do ... perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I've found out what it's for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What's this thing? This ... let's call it a tail - yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can't I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn't seem to achieve very much but I'll probably find out what it's for later on. Now - have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation ...

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now isn't it?

And wow! Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like ... ow ... ound ... round ... ground! That's it! That's a good name - ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now."

Excerpted from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 18.

42. Sigh...

Douglas Adams continues to be sorely missed. Thanks again for all the fish!

May 9, 2011

YetiStomper Picks for May

As winter enters its eight month, I'm buried in yet another a blizzard of books. Come back summer!

Embassytown - China Mieville

Standalone SF Novel - Mieville continues his trend of literary eclecticism with Embassytown, a high concept SF thriller set in a wondrous far future where humanity has encountered beings so strange the word "alien" can't do them justice. As Avice Benner Cho (alphabet pun anyone?) returns to Embassytown she finds she has become a figure of speech in the universally unique language of the Ariekei - a language she can't even comprehend. From their... Ok, I give up...  Like any Mieville novel, it's hard to summarize the book in just a few non-nonsensical lines. Just know that Embassytown is a thought-provoking meditation on language, conflict, and incomprehensible otherness executed in mind-melting fashion like only Mieville can. (May 17 from Del Rey)

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief Trilogy, Book 1 - Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi bursts onto the genre scene with the biggest SF debut of the year. Genre giant Charles Stross not only called The Quantum Thief "the best first SF novel I've read in many years," he went so far as to say "I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am." And it's hard not to agree; The Quantum Thief is pure idea concentrate. Rajaniemi packs so many intriguing thoughts into his work that he's forced to throw away concepts that lesser SF authors would frame entire books around. (May 10 from Tor)

Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi

Standalone SF Novel - A compulsively readable collision of tightly plotted legal thriller and idea-centric science fiction, Fuzzy Nation evokes fond memories of a simpler era of storytelling. Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy updated for 21st century audiences by fan-favorite SF author John Scalzi. Followers of his popular blog will undoubtedly be drawn to snarktacular protagonist Jack Holloway as he battles corporate douchebaggery in all its forms. Read my full review for more on Scalzi's unputdownable summer blockbuster. (May 10 from Tor)

Eclipse Four - Jonathan Strahan, ed.

Original Short Fiction Anthology, Volume 4 - It's about time. Eclipse Four was pushed from last year's publishing slate for unknown reasons and I feared we might have seen the last of Strahan's excellent anthology series. But things got back on track, the ToC looks great, and Strahan is already hinting at a fifth volume. With strong stories from top to bottom, the only recurring theme is the lack thereof. If you are looking for quality genre authors outside your typical reading patterns, the Eclipse anthology series is one of the best ways to discover some spectacular authors you might not have encountered before. (May 3 from Night Shade Books)

Camera Obscura - Lavie Tidhar

World of The Bookman, Book 2 - While not a sequel per se, Tidhar returns to the world of 2009's much lauded The Bookman for yet another Steampunk story. Camera Obscura moves the action from London to Paris, where Quiet Council agent Lady De Winter is tasked with solving a gruesome murder in the Rue Morgue. May looks to be a Steampunk heavy month and Camera Obscura may be the best of the bunch. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti - Genevieve Valentine

Tales of the Circus Tresaulti, Book 1 - Or maybe it's not. I'll let Genevieve Valentine take this one herself: "The Mechanical Circus Tresaulti travels the landscape of a ruined country under the spectre of war, but when two of its performers become locked in a battle of wills, the circus's own past may be the biggest threat of all." Is there anything more bizarre than a fantastical circus? Yes, a steampunk one. After three years of promising shorts, Valentine delivers a debut novel as strange as it is fascinating. Grab your seats now, the show is about to begin. (May 10 from Prime Books)

Degrees of Freedom - Simon Morden

Samuil Petrovitch Trilogy, Book 3 - If things weren't complicated when we left Samuil Petrovitch after April's Theories of Flight, they certainly are now. Artificial intelligence is running amok, Neo-Armageddeonists are determined to blow up the world (again), and Petrovitch has not one but two love interests, both of which may or may not want him dead. It's pretty much par for the course as Orbit wraps up Simon Morden's action packed trilogy with the third paperback volume in three months. (May 31 from Orbit)

Hounded - Kevin Hearne

The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1 - Somehow, someway, authors keep breathing life into the all but played out Urban Fantasy scene. The most recent resuscitator is Kevin Hearne whose first novel, Hounded, combines Celtic mythology with the more typical tropes of werewolves and vampires. Twenty-one-hundred-year-old Atticus O' Sullivan has been on the run for centuries, fleeing a Celtic god who for whatever reason suspects that O' Sullivan might have a magic sword that doesn't belong to him. Spoiler Alert: He does. When that vengeful deity finally tracks down Atticus in modern-day Arizona, it will take every thing he's learned in his 766,500 days on this planet just to be sure he lives to see one more. Diverse and dynamic, Hounded is our introduction to the Iron Druid Chronicles, the first three of which will be published back-to-back-to-back in May/June/July. (May 3 from Del Rey)

America Pacifica - Anna North

Standalone - Alternatively, if you've grown tired of vampires, werewolves, and clockwork creatures, Anna North's America Pacifica may be the May book for you. Skewing more toward the literary end of the genre spectrum, her dystopic coming of age tale combines pop culture and politics in a futuristic story with its roots firmly in the present. North draws from Lord of the Flies, 1984, TV's Lost, and half a dozen other stories in a dark but expertly crafted debut that should appeal to readers between 15 and 25.

Infernal Devices - K.W. Jeter

Standalone - Angry Robot is republishing Jeter's classic tale of clockwork chaos with a beautiful new cover. If you're a fan of the copper and brass books that have been rolling off production lines recently, you owe it to yourself to read one of the Steampunk stories that started it all. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

Morlock Night - K.W. Jeter

Standalone - Ever wonder what happened to the temporal travelers of The Time Machine after they escaped the clutches of the manical Morlocks? K.W. Jeter did too which was what led him to author Morlock Nights, a continuation of the story started in H.G. Wells' timeless (no pun intended) classic. In what might be the first ever home and home SF series, the far future Morlocks invade 19th century Victorian England and it's up to an intrepid band of English adventurers to save the day. Like Infernal Devices, Morlock Night is being republished and recovered by Angry Robot. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

The Falling Machine - Andrew P. Mayer

The Society of Steam, Book 1 - The steampunk deluge contiues with The Falling Machine, a debut novel from long time video game consultant, Andrew P. Mayer. Mayer reimagines a version of late 19th century New York in which superheroes exist, their extraordinary abilities sustained by a mysterious substance coveted by all. Before long, 20-year-old protagonist Sarah Stanton finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that runs deeper than anyone expects. When are people going to learn not to ask questions in abstract societies that appear to good to be true? (May 24 from Pyr)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: Like most months, the YetiStomper Pick for May comes down to a pair of worthy contenders. A few other authors might be challengers someday but for now the title card is set - Embassytown vs. Fuzzy Nation.

These are two extremely different novels linked only by their exquisite execution. Scalzi's reboot is the quicker book, a leaner, faster, meaner adaptation of Piper's original. Hit the bathroom now, grab a fresh beer and let the anthropomorphic dog out - once that bell rings, you won't be able to tear yourself away. So don't be surprised if Scalzi turns out to be the fan favorite in this one. He knows what you bought that ticket to see and makes sure Fuzzy Nation is more than worth the price of admission.

But in the other corner lurks the genre giant, China Mieville, a man who reinvents his fighting style with every bout. Balancing a heavyweight's power with a featherweight's touch, Mieville's prose will come at you in ways you'd never expect and inevitably leave you reeling on the floor. It's only a matter of time before he lands a haymaker of unrivaled imaginative ferocity, one that will resonate deep inside and leave a mark that might never heal.

Scalzi will come out quick, drawing on the cheers of his loyal fanbase to win an early round or two. But as impressive as it may be, Scalzi's technique is one we've seen before whereas Mieville's unpredictable approach is yet another enigma. Surprising but never faltering, Embassytown only adds to the impressive record that Mieville has earned while redefining how to play the game. The YetiStomper Pick for May goes to Embassytown via split decision, rewarding Mieville's tireless reinvention over Scalzi's effortless appeal.

YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: While not the same slugfest as the title fight, the May undercard is not a match to be missed. In true Battle Royale fashion, it's The Falling Machine vs. America Pacifica vs. Hounded vs. Mechanique vs. The Quantum Thief. In the end, I think Mechanique and The Quantum Thief manage to eliminate the other contenders before facing off for Rookie of the Month. From there all bets are off.  While something might be rotten in the state of Denmark, Finland is fresh as can be as The Quantum Thief injects life into the not-exactly-flourishing SF scene. On the other hand, Mechanique is less interested in saving a genre than defining it's own. Valentine's story is more of a circus act than the carnival it describes, managing to amaze with skillful prose and to delight with curious yet playful presentation. As much as I'm tempted to go with the tie, I'm giving this one to Mechanique. You can't go wrong with either book but Mechanique doesn't possess the same support structure The Quantum Thief does with it's small but passionate SF readership. But either book (or any of these debuts) is definitely worth giving another look.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: Hmmmm.... Where did this go? Stay tuned to find out!

Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. And don't worry, thanks to new state legislation, I don't get a single penny, nickel, or dime from it. It's been hard restructuring my budget without that extra $10 a year but I think I'll survive. Be sure to let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments.

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.

May 7, 2011

Suck It Scalzi!

[Author's Note: Not really. Go read Fuzzy Nation, it's really good.]

We can take sunset pictures too!

If there is one thing urban air pollution is good for, it's making pretty colors when the sun goes down.

Two of these gorgeous shots were taken by the YetiWife, one by yours truly. Can you guess which is which?

May 5, 2011

Covering Covers: The Final Volume of A Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin

With all the GRRMbling that has been going around the past few days (not to mention the hugely popular HBO series Game of Thrones), I thought it would be a good time to unveil the cover art for the Sixth and Final Volume of George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Originally intended to be published as two volumes, A Flood of Flames reflects Martin's new direction for the series after carefully considering fan input he's received over the years.

Cover Artist: Jennifer Wolohan

And, as promised, the official synopsis from GRRM himself:

A Volcano Explodes. Everyone Dies. The End.

A Flood of Flames will be out from Bantam on December 21st, 2012. I hope you're happy.

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