Feb 22, 2010

Authors Worth Watching, Spotlight 2 of 5

I present to you the 2nd group of spotlight authors from the large list of 25 Authors Worth Watching. Like last time, I'll give you a little background on the writer, where you can find early work to sample, and what you should watch for in the next year or two.
I originally planned on doing these on a MWF basis but it is taking a suprising long time to pull these posts together so I'm going to go to a Mon-Thurs schedule for the final 3 posts.

Anyway, on to the writers themselves...

Beth Bernobich - Beth Bernobich is one of the several authors on this list that I hadn't heard of prior to taking nominations. After reading some of her early work, Beth appears poised to become a regular name with fans of historical fantasy or alternate history stories, particularly those who enjoy a romantic subplot or two. That's not to say she's a one trick pony; her SF short "Marsdog" riffs on the timeless nature of a boy and his dog through a very peculiar set of eyes. Bernobich has quite a backlog of stories ranging from SF to fantasy and period pieces to alternate futures, even working some horror and erotica into the mix (I think one story was both). She seems to have settled on a fantasy world for her first mainstream novel. This year marks the release of Passion Play, the first book in the Erythandra Series. James Patrick Kelly blurbed the series as a novel that  "fills the senses with the gritty taste of ashes and the delicious shiver of silk, while the mysterious scent of magic is everywhere present." I'm eager to get more detail on this fantasy world from Beth if she's willing to answer a few of my questions. UPDATE: According to the Mad Hatter (who reviews Ars Memoriae here), Beth has signed a deal with Tor for two additional novels.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories - Short Story Anthology - Lethe Press - Spring 2010
  • Passion Play - Fantasy - Tor - October 2010 To be followed by Queen’s Hunt. Allegiance, and untitled fourth book [The Erythandra Series]
  • Fox and Phoenix - YA Fantasy - Viking - Summer 2011
  • The Time Roads - Collection of stories from her Éireann world - Tor - TBD 
Website / Blog

Ian Tregillis - Ian Tregillis is another one of those authors who doesn't have a lot of dishes on the table yet but the smells from the kitchen are fantastic. Besides a fun short published on the now defunct Trabaco Road website, Tregillis's published work is limited to George R.R. Martin's superhero SF shared Wild Card's universe. That's about to change this spring with the publicaiton of Tregillis's first book in the Milkweed Triptych, Bitter Seeds. The Milkweed Triptych, at least from what I can gather, is an alternate history fantasy set during World War II. If Tregillis's tagline "It's 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly ordinary man is caught in the middle." doesn't make you want to check out these books, I'd point you to some high praise from one of his fellow writers "It's pretty much the coolest structure for a trilogy I've ever seen" and "If he doesn't become a Name in the field, it'll be because he decides not to. Seriously, this is his game to lose." Also, check out his website. While not the most functional thing I've ever seen, it's visually impressive and fun to play with. Plus his bio says that he's a mammal...that's a good thing right?

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • Bitter Seeds - WWII Alternate History (Nazi Monsters vs British Demons) - Tor - 4/13/10 - To be followed  by The Coldest War (2010) and Necessary Evil (2011)
Website / Blog

Ken Scholes - So far, Ken Scholes appears to be the author my readers are most familiar with. That's probably because the first two volumes of his five volume fantasy series, The Psalms of Isaak, have been garnering rave-reviews accross the blogosphere (not to mention their beautiful covers). Despite authoring this well respected sequence, Scholes has also made a name for himself with a strong body of shorter work. When he's not creating immersive fantasy worlds, Scholes mixes the historical with the fictional. In one of his stories Hitler is a remarkable different man. In another, Edward the Bear must save a fleet of generation ships rapidly approaching disaster. Grasping the familar and twisting it, he creates something both familiar and hauntingly unique. Scholes emotionally evocative writing impresses at any length.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • Antiphon (The Psalms of Isaak: Book 3) - High Fantasy - Tor - September 2010 - To be followed by the last two volumes of The Psalms of Isaak, Requiem and Hymn
Website / Blog

Meghan McCarron - Meghan McCarron might not be a household genre name at this point but the overwhelming consensus is that she will be. Alongside Alice Sola Kim and Greg Van Eekout, McCarron's name seemed to come up in every conversation about aspiring new writers. When I read some of her relatively small portfolio of work, it was easy to see why. McCarron possess a gift for prose that flows effortlessly regardless of how surreal the subject matter. McCarron has a grasp of language that would make a grocery list readable and it's easy to assume that she'll only get better as she writes more. Did I mention she's only 27? I don't know what McCarron's future work promises or if/when we will get to see a debut novel, but I do know that what I'll be waiting to read it.

Early Work:
  • "The Magician’s House" - Strange Horizons August 2008 (Read Online)
  • "Tetris Dooms Itself" - Clarkesworld Magazine - August 2008 (Read Online)
  • "The Flying Woman" - Strange Horizons - March 2006 (Read Online)
  • "Close To You" - Strange Horizons - May 2005 (Read Online)
In the Future:
  • "WE HEART VAMPIRES!!!!!!!" - Strange Horizons - Spring 2010 
Website / Blog / Twitter

Theodora Goss - While reading Goss's first collection, In The Forest of Forgetting, I was immediately reminded of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things or Susanna Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Goss write a deceptively simple story, almost fairytale-esque, foregoing intricate plots for more complex characters and emotional moments. Rather than transported to a fully-realized fantasy world like Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin, I was transported back to my childhood, when a boundless imagination made the world was a more magical place. At the same time, Goss's fairly tales aren't exactly Grimm's. Paradoxically, her stories read as both timeless and modern, demonstrating a clear love for storytelling in today's largely unimaginative society.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • Currently Unknown
Website / Blog

That's it for the Group 2 of the 5 Authors Worth Watching. You should really go check out their fiction where you can. I've been impressed by these authors time after time. Typically, I have a hard time reading a lot of short fiction in a short ammount of time because you have to switch voice and prose style so often. These stories are so well-written that you can't help but keep reading.

As always, Let me know if there are any other key pieces of info you would be interested in or if I somehow managed to get something incorrect.

Feb 17, 2010

YetiContest: The British Are Coming

Based on Maurice Broaddus's response to my post about Indy, I'm excited to announce a little good spirited contest. The rules are simple: The first person (other than Maurice himself) who takes a picture holding a copy of King Maker and a non-US flag in front of a Indianapolis landmark gets a free book or two.

The prize is fairly boring. I've recieved a couple of review copies of books recently that I've also purchased so I will let you pick your choice of books. I typically don't do contests as I think they are a little content-light but I've got extra books and I'll be interested to see if anyone gets it done without photoshop. And if Indianapolis landmarks exist.

King Maker comes out March 4th but only in the UK. I'll keep the contest open until May 31st or until I get a winning submission.

You can submit any entries to YetiContest[at]gmail[dot]com and be sure to include your name, mailing address, and what you consider an Indianapolis landmark.

Best of luck!

Indianapolis: Broaddus Strikes Back

A few weeks ago I brought up the topic of setting in Urban Fantasy, namely the choice of picking the fairly unfamiliar city (particulary on the global stage) of Indianapolis as the setting for the very intriguing Angry Robot title, King Maker. Somewhere along the line, Maurice Broaddus, King Maker's author, read my post and responded over on the Apex Book Company blog saying:
I understand this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, after all, what’s a few pimps, trolls, drug dealers, elementals, homeless teenagers, and the occasional dragon between friends? However, that was the element of disbelief said blog writer couldn’t suspend. His issue was the setting. Indianapolis, specifically selling Indianapolis to British readers.
"Indianapolis is actually a perfect place to set the story. It’s a blank enough canvas that I’m betting even native readers will have their eyes opened by much of the story’s locales. And frankly, be it Indianapolis, The Shire, or Gallifrey, the important isn’t how familiar the world is to us, but how real the author makes it to us. Here’s hoping I made the Indianapolis haunting, real, and terrifying. If not, you at least have a gorgeous cover to enjoy."
While I think Marcus might have been misintrepeting my curiosity driven first post a bit harshly, he is definitely spot on with that second quote. Indianapolis is a bold choice for a setting and one that is going to demand more work than one set in a more recognizable locale such as New York or London.  I responded with something similar over in the comments.
I’m not necessarily questioning your choice to use Indianapolis. It was more a commentary that you chose to forego the benefits of using an established city which I found unusual particularly when the book is being released internationally. Obviously setting each volume in a large well-known metropolitan city is a way to ground the story in reality and reduce the amount of writing devoted to the setting.

By setting King Maker in Indianapolis you do have the benefit of a clean slate (as you stated) but you lack the head-start that can sometimes benefit a fast paced novel (which is typical in Urban Fantasy). It’s not a bad move per se, just a bold one as you now have to convey a sense of the mundane along with the weird. For the majority of international readers (and a frightening ammount of US readers) setting the book Indianapolis is the equivalent of setting it in a fully fictional metropolis.
Basically, I wasn't critiquing Broaddus's choice as much as I was curious about how locations I would take for granted would play out overseas. If you think that setting is the kiss-of-death for books, look no further than Stephen King. Rural Maine is even less recognizable than Indianapolis and that doesn't stop King from being a global phenomenon. Regardless, I've been very interested in this Arthurian retelling since I first learned of it last year and it's definitely on my to read list regardless of whether or not the average UK blogger knows where it's set. King Maker comes out on March 4th in the UK and August 31st in the US. I'll send a book or two to the first person to take a picture holding King Maker and a British flag in a recognizable location in Indy. That is, if one exists...

Authors Worth Watching, Spotlight 1 of 5

As promised, I'm going to write a brief spotlight on each of the writers on the list I compiled of 25 Authors Worth Watching. Each summary will give you a little background on the writer, where you can find early work to sample, and what you should watch for in the next year or two.

I was tempted to try and define them by subgenre but so many authors hop around that it's almost useless to group them, especially so early in their careers.

Blake Charlton - Blake Charlton has a very unique resume to accompany his much-hyped debut novel, Spellwright. While almost every aspiring novelist is a writer, very few are on track to become licensed medical doctors. Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, Charlton managed to get into Yale, Stanford Med, and sign a 3-book deal with Tor. Unfortunately, his current bibliography is only story long (it's a good one though) but luckily you won't have to wait long for more. Spellwright comes out March 2nd and from the early reviews its extremely intricate and unique magic system has impressed readers. From what I can tell, it's a book about and influenced by the magic of writing and one I'm very interested to delve into.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • Spellwright - Fantasy - Tor - 3/2/10 - To be followed by Spellbound and Disjunction.
Website / Blog / Twitter

Jack Skillingstead - Quite the opposite of Charlton, Skillingstead has dabbled in the short form for the majority of his writing career. Last year, he made the leap to the long form with his first novel, Harbinger after publishing short fiction for nearly a decade. Skillingstead's short fiction is well worth reading: In only a few short pages, Skillingstead manages to explore genre staples such as alien encounters or Lovecraftian horror and create complex characters that resonate with readers. Back at the beginning of his career, he won a fiction contest put on by Stephen King himself. If you ask Skillingstead, he will tell you that he strives for "tight prose delivered at minimum length" something King isn't exactly well known for. Tight prose is a severly undervalued virture in today's more equals better society and something this reviewer loves to read.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • A novel based on or in the same universe as "Life On The Preservation". Tenatively scheduled for 2011.
Website (It will be updated soon...)

Lauren Beukes - Last year, Lauren Beukes's debut Moxyland (full review) suprised me with it's aggresive style and frightfully realistic futuristic setting. Drawing comparisons in my mind to Cory Doctorow or Stross's near-future SF work, Beukes manages to capture the technological and cultural changes of the future in a way few can. And despite the intricate advances she describes, Beukes is able to pair those with compelling, human characters too often lacking in SF writing. Hailing from South Africa, Beukes has a cultural education and worldview that sets her apart from traditional English genre writers. Her 2010 follow-up, Zoo City is one I am eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately, I have had a hard time tracking down her short fiction as most of it was published by South African imprints.

Early Work:
  • Moxyland - Near Future SF - Angry Robot - 4/27/10 (US) / Out Now! (UK)
In the Future:
  • Zoo City - Science Fiction - Angry Robot - 5/25/10 (US) / 4/29/10 (UK)
Website / Blog / Twitter

N.K. Jemisin - Nora Jemisin is most likely the first author I will be interviewing as part of this new series. That is, if she's not exhausted from all the other attention she's been getting from the blogosphere. Her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, actually came out yesterday and it appears everyone is reading it. And from what I read, not just reading it, loving it too. I have yet to see anything bad about her debut fantasy detailing the power struggle in a fantastical world of powerful gods and the beings that enslaved them. Evocative, imaginative, and enthralling are just a few of the words commonly repeated in early reviews. One of the most common themes in Jemisin's work is power: who has it, who doesn't, and the struggles it creates. Jemisin writes with a distinct voice and a definite purpose, creating multi-layered fiction that is both enjoyable to read and thought-provoking.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - Fantasy - Orbit - 2/1 - To be followed by The Broken Kingdoms and a third book tentatively titled Kingdom of Gods
Website / Blog / Twitter

Tina Connolly - Based on the early results of the poll I posted to see which of the 25 authors were the most underread, not many people are currently aware of Tina Connolly. Which is a shame because Connolly's fiction is lean and streamlined with a prose style best described as barb-like: it's sharp and pointed but once it's in your head it's stuck there. The few stories I sampled definitely leaned toward the science fiction side of the genre with The BitRunners, my personal favorite reading like a mix of Neuromancer and The Usual Suspects. Connolly has no problem creating immersive SF worlds with unique lexicons and based on the ammount of world building she works into her short fiction, I expect big things if and when she makes the leap to the big show. On the other hand, I'd be happy to "settle" for the same quality short fiction she's already producing.

Early Work:
In the Future:
  • "Silverfin Harbor". The End of an AEon. Forthcoming, 2010.
  • "Zebedee the Giant Man". On Spec. Forthcoming, 2010.
Website / Blog / Twitter

That's it for the 1st set of 5 Authors Worth Watching. I'll give you some time to sample a little of their work and then back on Friday for the next spotlight.

Let me know if there are any other key pieces of info you would be interested in or if I somehow managed to get something incorrect.

Feb 15, 2010

25 Authors Worth Watching in 2010 and Beyond

Last year, one of my more ambitious projects was the Keeping An Eye On... interview series. Targeting the 21 authors identified by SF Signal as Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars back in 2008, I was able to spotlight 19 authors who were on the front end of promising careers. Some had only published short stories; others had several novels under their belts. All had talent enough to garner attention. That interview series was my favorite thing I did last year and I was sad to see it end. All of the authors were so fun to talk to and despite the sterile nature of my first few interviews, I hope that they enjoyed the conversation as well.

Now it's two years or so after SF Signal's original (and fairly comprehensive) list and there are plenty of new authors who are worth watching. So late last year I set out to create a follow-up list of more authors worth watching. After all, the To-Read bookcase can never be full enough can it? To find nominees I actually did a fair bit of research, trying to be as objective as one blogger can be. I surveyed the first class of up-and-comers for additional nominations and who they thought might have been missing from the original list. I kept track of a number of message board "anticipated titles for 2010" threads, investigating new authors and keeping a tally of how many times each book was mentioned. I obtained input from several genre giants including Lou Anders and Gardner Dozios, among others. And I read lots and lots of short stories, pulling anthologies off the wall that I hadn't flipped through in years.

Finally, I ended up with an excel workbook filled with more lists and tallies than I knew what to do with. Sorting by frequency I was able to establish a list of about 35 strong contenders. After a little bit more careful research, I eliminated a few based on the fact that they could be considered past the "up-and-coming" stage of their careers. In the end, I was able to reduce the list to 25 authors to worth watching.

So without further ado, here are 25 new (or newish) authors worth watching for in 2010 and beyond.
  • Alice Sola Kim
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Ari Marmell
  • Beth Bernobich
  • Blake Charlton
  • Chris Barzak
  • Greg van Eekhout
  • Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Ian Tregillis
  • Jack Skillingstead
  • Jason Sanford
  • John Langan
  • Kaaron Warren
  • Ken Scholes
  • Lauren Beukes
  • Lavie Tidhar
  • Leah Bobet
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Meghan McCarron
  • N.K. Jemisin
  • Nathan Ballingrud
  • Rachel Swirsky
  • Sam Sykes
  • Theodora Goss
  • Tina Connolly
Many of these authors I had never heard of before starting this project. Others I had heard of but never sampled. Much like the original list, some authors are just starting their careers and others could be considered close to graduating into the ranks of the established genre authors. I'd like to think there is a good mix of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror on this list and that while not every author might be right for you, at least a few of these authors could be just what you were looking for. 

So where do we go from here? Over the next week or two, I am going to be doing spotlights on each of these authors, what early work of theirs is worth reading, what work is coming out in 2010 and beyond, and where you can follow their writing careers online. Past that I hope to interview all of these authors similar to what was done with Keeping An Eye On... and cover their 2010 novels where and when I can.

I hope that you take the time to check out a few of the authors on this list and find someone new to read. If you don't want to be that aggressive, just keep coming back here and I'll try to give you all the information you need. You've probably heard of several of the authors on the list, possibly even most of them. But if I can introduce you to a new author that soon becomes one of your favorites, then I will consider this project a success. It's why I'm here.

Feb 14, 2010

Covering Covers: Uglies/Pretties/Specials

I saw these new covers for Scott Westerfeld's popular trilogy today and I must say I like the new look.

For comparison, here are the old covers.

The old covers aren't bad per se but they really give off a chick-lit vibe. Nothing is wrong with the covers themselves, I just don't know if they are really indicative of the story inside. When are they ever? I just happen to like the new covers more.

The new covers are more complex which in this case I support. The bright colors attract the eye and get you to examine the smaller pictures in greater detail. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the artist responsible for the new covers which is something I always try to hightlight. If you know who it is, please let me know in the comments.

Feb 12, 2010

YetiReview: Leviathan

30 Words or Less: A simplistic but imaginative story set in an alternate World War I that pits biological monstrosities against mechanical war machines as witnessed by a pair of young protagonists. Plus incredible sketches!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Good: Clankers vs. Darwinists make Westerfeld’s imaginative world one that demands further exploration; The artwork accentuates the story perfectly, capturing scenes with exquisite detail; Book is an enjoyable adventure suitable for all ages.

The Bad: The scope of the novel is a little small (although this is more of a YA thing than a flaw); A few character inconsistencies; My book cover is upside down

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan was the winner of the reader’s choice poll I held back in December. To be honest, I planned on reading it anyway and by the time the poll closed, I had already finished it. Like a lot of YA books, Leviathan doesn’t take a long time to read but still manages to leave an impression that still sticks months later. The inventiveness of Westerfeld’s re-imagined World War I represents top-notch speculation, regardless of the targeted age level. Through a pair of young protagonists, Leviathan presents a war not of political powers or economic mindsets but of scientific ideologies. Instead of the Allies and the Central Powers, Westerfeld’s Great War pits the Darwinists and their biologically engineered monstrosities against the mechanical prowess of the Clankers.

On the Darwinist side, Ms. Deryn Sharp joins the air corps of England under the guise of young male cadet. Patrolling the skies of Europe in a living dirigible bearing secret cargo, Deryn soon encounters a Clanker prince named Aleksander, the second of Westerfeld’s central characters. In the company of a band of Austrian loyalists and under the armored protection of a walking tank, Aleksander is fleeing the same men who betrayed and murdered his royal parents. The protagonists are a little bit stereotypical for YA fantasy but they fit perfectly within Westerfeld’s world. He also writes his characters with a sense of wonder for the undeniable strangeness for their world rather than the angsty teen voice that plagues lesser YA fiction.

The vast majority of this first book in Westerfeld's steampunk trilogy plus one follows Deryn and Aleksander's peregrinations across this alternate Europe. The trip itself is extremely well paced, conveying a sense of distance and exploration without becoming monotonous. Westerfeld strikes a balance between action and worldbuilding (notice I didn't say infodumping) and every scene seems to advance the story. These journeys are well paralleled in the gradual evolution of the book's cast. For the most part, each of the characters grows linearly into their roles as they gain experience and confidence. There is a hiccup early on in which some of the secondary characters behave strangely and appear to be unexpected antagonists. The actions these characters make are unnecessary and extremely illogical and can only be explained by an attempt to introduce early suspense (it fails at creating anything other confusion). Despite this slight misstep, the characters recover quickly and the rest of the book flows smoothly. In terms of YA character arcs, Leviathan is a prime example of how to grow your characters while keeping the story moving. Ultimately, Westerfeld brings his characters together, providing satisfactory closure to Leviathan in a action packed final act while setting up next year's follow up, Behemoth (October 2010).

Speaking of Behemoth, my biggest problem with Leviathan was that there wasn’t more of it. YA books typically have larger font which inflates the page count without additional content. Add to this fact that there were full page illustrations every five to ten pages (more on that later), and you're left with an extremely quick read. The characters change and the plot develops but Leviathan is more of an introduction than a separate story. It's definitely not a bad thing that Leviathan left me wanting more but I felt the book could have included a bit more. That being said, the book did end at a natural stopping point and including the next chapter in the story could have meant hundreds or more additional pages. This wouldn't be unwelcome but if additional story meant trimming the book as is, it would be hard to identify superfluous scenes. If anything a slightly smaller font size could have provided more room for story. And the illustrations absolutely have to stay in.

While they do boost the page count without impacting the amount of story, the illustrations take the book to the next level. An homage to the illustrated serials of Dickens and others, Keith Thompson’s beautiful artwork gives concrete vision to a steampunk world. While the descriptions of wondrous beasts and anachronistically complex mechanisms trigger the imagination, it can sometimes be difficult to reconcile the words on the page with the image in your mind’s eye. Thompson’s work provides an incredibly intricate level of detail and every drawing. The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words and I probably poured over each of Thompson's pieces for at least as long as it would take me to read that number. I don't know if it would work in all aspects of genre fiction (sketches in a space opera) but in the early 20th century steampunk setting it couldn't work better.

Leviathan is yet another example of why Westerfeld is one of the premiere speculative YA authors writing today. The novel is perfect for any young reader looking for something different than the average YA fantasy and if you are a parent absolutely no material that could be considered even slightly objectionable by any rational person. My biggest reservations with the novel had more to do with the YA format than book itself and it's important to remember that I'm not the target audience. In the end, Leviathan is a worthwhile introduction to a fantastic world that I can’t wait to revisit.

Feb 10, 2010

New John Jackson Miller Star Wars Series Announced

Today Dark Horse issued a press release announcing John Jackson Miller's next Star Wars project. The ending of his current series, Knights of the Old Republic, was announced a few months ago and since then he's been teasing something special. Knights of the Old Republic, or KOTOR to its fans, is my favorite active Star Wars series and one I will definitely miss. Miller does a great job of recreating the feel of the original trilogy with a mixture of humor, action, and a touch of darkness. So many Star Wars authors fail to recreate the combination successfully. I was sad to see KOTOR come to a close.

But from the sound of it, Miller's next series, Knight Errant, has the potential to be even greater. Here is the core of Dark Horse's summary:

Set one thousand years before Episode I, in a time referred to as the “Dark Age of the Republic,” this story takes place in an era when the Sith were legion and the Republic was strained to the breaking point, leaving large swaths of the galaxy with no one to turn to. This pivotal time in the history of Star Wars has been largely unexplored, until now.

Additionally, for the first time ever, the writer of this new comics series will also be authoring a novel for Del Rey Books, set in the same era and involving the same cast of characters in an all-new adventure. It’s going to be a unique event for Star Wars, and one that will give fans a whole new perspective on the galaxy.

“There’s such wonderful chaos going on in the galaxy in this period,” said writer John Jackson Miller. “More than a generation before Darth Bane introduced the Rule of Two, Sith Lords are colliding not just with the Republic, but with each other. Kerra’s going to find that good intentions just may not be enough in a galaxy gone mad! This is a wide-open area to explore, and I’m thrilled that Dark Horse and Del Rey have given me this opportunity to do so.”
So we get a monthly comic series and a full length novel (if not more than one) set in a extremely unexplored timeline teeming with Jedi and Sith. It's Miller's debut novel but he has done prose work for the Star Wars Lost Tribe of the Sith eBook series. I haven't read enough of it to form a solid opinion but I'm excited to read more (and not off my Kindle app). This also marks one of the few female centered series in the history of Star Wars projects so this project breaks new ground in more than a few ways.

Over at Faraway Looks, JJM's personal blog, he sheds a little more light on the subject and how excited he is to be continuing his Star Wars work.

Congrats to Miller! I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Speculative Fiction for you and your valentine...

Only 5 days until Valentine’s Day. I don’t know much about you but from the fact you’re here, you have at least a passing interest in the speculative genre. You might also have a special someone in your life. And that someone may or may not share your passion for reading or genre fiction. And if you’re anything like me you might not have any idea what you’re getting that person for Valentine’s Day.

In my experience, one of the most successful gifts I’ve given my girlfriend is a pair of books. (She’s now my fiancé, how’s that for success?) Not two different books, mind you, two of the same book. While this might aggravate the frugal book buyer, I’ve found it makes a fairly inexpensive, heartfelt gift. The idea is that you want to share an experience with them. Whether it’s lying on the couch turning pages side by side or discussing plot points over a late dinner in your favorite date restaurant, a shared book can be a much more romantic gesture than it appears on paper.

So assuming you are looking for a gift a little more personal than a box of chocolates and your significant other would be interested in reading something both romantic and speculative, here are 5 books that I’ve found work on both sides of the genre fence.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
This book deals with a love that transcends time. Henry time travels randomly into Clare’s (his wife) future and past. While she experiences her life linearly, her relationship with Henry is anything but. The first time Henry meets Clare, she has already interacted with other future Henrys to the point that she knows they are destined to be together. Not only is the story very personal and intimate, the causality inherent in their time-crossed relationships will have your mind in knots even if you thought Primer was straight forward. How many marriages do you know that never have a first date? This is probably the best time-travel book I’ve ever read and one of the finest science fiction novels to come out in the last decade.

Replay - Ken Grimwood

This is another book dealing with two people drawn together by extraordinary circumstances. Replay works from the same premise of Groundhog’s Day but instead of one day, Jeff Winston continually relives the last 25 years of his life. With each subsequent replay, Jeff continually adapts his life in an effort to find happiness and meaning in a life without conclusion. Eventually he meets someone who suffers from the same bizarre situation that he does and their lives are linked together for better worse. A World Fantasy Award winner, Replay is a simple concept executed perfectly.

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Yet another time-travel romance, Outlander mixes historical fiction with fantasy as Claire Randall is teleported back in time to a Scotland 200 years in the past. She soon becomes conflicted between a husband in one time and a lover in the other. Despite the Harlequin-esque sales pitch it’s not trashy (although there is some passionate sex) and Gabaldon puts a lot of effort into historical detail and developing an intriguing plot.

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

This book is a step in the right direction for the unfortunate Twilight fan. (Centuries old vampire stalks confused teen, that’s a healthy relationship…) While Meyer’s other books might be annoyingly terrible and annoying popular, The Host is a fast read concerning what happens when the Brain Slugs learn to love. The majority of the human race has been possessed by Souls (parasitic aliens who infest and control your mind) and only a few pockets of free humans remain. When one of the resistance members is taken over by a Soul but refuses to fade quietly away, they form an unexpected and unwelcome pair. In the Host, Meyer raises questions of love, identity, and what it means to be human in one of the strangest love triangles you’ll ever encounter.

Little, Big - John Crowley

This book is very hit or miss but if you and your other are the type of people who enjoy dense challenging novels than Little, Big might be perfect for you. Crowley constructs a meandering story that is almost impossible to describe (my best attempt would be a family’s history with fairies) that changes locations and time frames but remains profoundly moving. If you like your fantasy more literary than pulp than Crowley’s masterpiece is worth a second look. Like Replay, Little, Big also won the World Fantasy Award.

So there you have it just in time for a last minute Valentine’s Day gift. 5 books that are both romantic and speculative and worth checking out whether it’s February 13th or August 22nd.

Feel free to recommend any books you feel would fit this list in the comments. I still need to find a gift…

Feb 9, 2010

Covering Covers: Vortex - Troy Denning

Cover Artist: Ian Keltie
Vortex displays the trend of stylistic Star Wars that has continued to impress me the last few of years. With another washed out figure silhouetted against a bright two-tone Coruscant skyline, cover artist Ian Keltie succeeds again. This time, Han Solo is the recognizable face brought into the Star Wars "present" (he's in his 70s or 80s now). While I might have some reservations about the effectiveness of his character and his fade into the background of an increasingly Force-centric saga, there's no denying that the business end of his DL-44 suggests otherwise. Unlike other generic Star Wars art, I really love how they are making this series stand out with such simple but strong art and bold graphic choices. The force is strong with these indeed. Vortex is scheduled to come out the December from Del Rey but Book 4 in the series, Aaron Allston's Backlash, hits shelves this March.

Feb 5, 2010

Two Interesting "On Blogging" Discussions

My Dream Home...

Sorry for my relative absence this week but I am currently in the midst of planning a wedding, buying a home, working twelve hours days at the day job, not to mention reading so I have something to talk about here and all that eating and sleeping nonsense.

So I don't have the time to get into anything at length at the moment but there are a few interesting discussions out there which I hope to address later.

This first is Harry (of Temple Library Reviews) and his response to Mark Charan's original response to Gav's (of Next Read) question "How Many Books are Too Many?"

Gav's Original Post with Mark Charan Newton's thoughts
Harry's Response and Thoughts

I tend to agree with Harry but more on this later. It's an interesting discussion, head over there are check it out. Plus both of these blogs are definitely worth checking out in and of themselves.

The second is from recent new blogger (look at me talking like I've been here for more than 7 months), Niall (The Speculative Scotsman). He's faced his first negative review and come out from the ordeal with a few thoughts to share. I'm still thinking them over but needless to say the first bad review is a baptism for book blogging.

I think that Niall's blog sucks but thats like 101% jealousy. He's got a much better grasp on language than I do. His being an english major and my being a mechanical engineer might have something to do with it but that doesn't make it any less true.

So yeah. I'm working on some stuff (preparing a unique well-informed post takes time) and I'm working on life. And I finished Book #2 of Kay Kenyon's Entire and the Rose so on to Book 3! I may take a brief detour into something else but its definitely a series worth finishing.

Feb 2, 2010

Happy Lostmas!

I'm watching Lost tonight. No blogging. I recommend you do the same.

Macmazon Fail - The danger of mixing business with pleasure...

"Publishing is one of the few things that combines passion projects and financial ventures."

The above statement is unfortunate but true. Most writers (but not all) write because they love it. They love the art of crafting words into meaningful passages that evoke emotion and capture the imagination. They get up sit at the same old desk and stare at that same blank screen time and time again because they can't imagine being happy doing anything else.

The same applies for most editors. In order to process the dozens and dozens of slush pile manuscripts, the average editor really needs to enjoy that diamond in the rough. They need to be willing to shape books with potential but not polish and work with every one of us idiots who are convinced they are the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

But at the same time, publishing is a business. Units sold represent food on the table for thousands of people across the publishing industry from authors and editors to printers, booksellers, and agents.  Money is involved and that means everyone has their own interests to protect and ultimately, they must obey the bottom line. In some respects, it's no different than agriculture or manufacturing.

But books aren't apples or iPods. They don't grow on trees and they don't roll off an assembly line. Each book is unique, every author different. It's a strange blend of passion and product and it sometimes becomes problematic.

As was the case when Amazon and MacMillian decided to have a little staring contest this past weekend, I had mixed thoughts. Part of me understands that publishing is a business and that everyone is looking out for their own interests. Amazon wants to move product and make money. MacMillian wants to be able to publish books in such a way that they can pay the authors and the editors and everyone else and still have enough to present a strong quarter to their investors. I can't necessarily blame either party. The issue is that more often than not these normal business disputes end up hurting writers.

For your average author (i.e. not Rowling, Grisham, or Meyer) every book that gets sold is another dollar toward a mortgage payment, another meal for a child or two, and if they are lucky enough, a somewhat stable existence. And when anything happens that prevents books from being sold (like MacmazonFail) the authors suffer.

Amazon doesn't sell a specific publisher's books. The authors suffer.

A series doesn't sell well and the subsequent options don't get picked up. The authors suffer.
Publishing houses and magazines fold and go under. The authors suffer.

It sucks. It sucks even harder when the authors being hurt are people who we consider friends; something becoming exponentially easier with the internet. But it's inevitable where books and business collide. It's the risk of combing art and capitalism. And it's a risk that every author takes in exchange for doing something they love. It might be courage or it be insanity but its part of the territory. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this is only the first shot in a much larger war.

Feb 1, 2010

YetiStomper Picks for February

February is short on days but way the list of books I want to read is way too long...

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin

If you've been paying attention to the SFF blogosphere, you should know that N.K. Jemisin's debut fantasy comes out on February 25th. Why? Because everyone has been talking about it. From rave reviews in Publisher's Weekly to spotlights on io9.com, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has all the signs of being the biggest debut fantasy of the year. And that's something when considering all of the highly anticipated books this year. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms appears to be a politically charged fantasy in a world where people tell the gods what to do. I've been desperate for an ARC but I haven't been able to get one yet.

The Conqueror's Shadow - Ari Marmell

Another contender for debut fantasy of the year, the title might come down to taste rather than quality. Marmell appears to be taking a difference approach to the heroic fantasy staple that intrigues me greatly. His hero (or antihero), Corvis, is a former warlord who gave up his dreams of conquest for hopes of love. But it so happens that the guy he handed his armies to needs stopping and Corvis is the only one who can get the job done. Marmell's take on things seems dark and gritty, begging comparisons to Joe Abercrombie. Abercrombie is probably my favorite fantasy author who still releases books on a regular schedule so The Conqueror's Shadow is another one I'm really excited to read. Plus Lou Anders recommends it. And it's not even a Pyr book! High praise indeed.

Horns - Joe Hill

Based on what I've heard, Joe Hill is proving that writing talent might be hereditary. I haven't read Hill's debut, Heart Shaped Box, yet but one of my goals this year (that post has been in progress forever) was to read more Horror. Joe Hill appears to be one of the rising stars of the genre and this new book about a man and the demons within him (apparently literally) is one worth checking out.

The Adamantine Palace - Stephen Deas

This is one of those books that comes out in the UK gets a lot of attention and finally makes its US debut a few years later. I've been so close to buying this book several times but I held out for the US edition to help Deas's sales. Plus that cover is pretty impressive. The first book in the Memory of Flame sequence, Deas does dragons as they should be done. Monstrous, violent and deadly. I've heard mixed things about this one, mostly the critique that it's fairly generic. If you are a big dragon fan though, you might want to check this one out.

Blackout - Connie Willis

"Connie Willis." That should be enough to get you to the Amazon page at least. This book is the first in a duology set in the same Hugo- and Nebula- award winning universe as Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. In 2060, Oxford historians are capable of time-traveling into the past and redefining historical research. Blackout takes these historians back to World War II Britain and the historians aren't sure which is worse: the fact that they are researching amidst German bombing raids or the fact that their time travel technology appears to be glitchy. I might use this as an opportunity to catch up on some award winning novels that I have ignored for far too long.

Geosynchron - David Louis Edelman

Edelman wraps up his Jump 225 trilogy with Geosynchron. The core principle behind these books is the MultiReal, a technology that probabilistically predicts future outcomes and allows for making scarily informed decisions. Geosynchron comes in when the MultiReal goes out and all hell breaks loose. If you like high concept science fiction, the Jump 225 trilogy is worth investigating further. Additionally, those covers are gorgeous. I'd buy one just to pretend I'm reading it on the bus.

Chill - Elizabeth Bear

This is the MMPB release of Chill, the 2nd book in Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy. These books concern two women fighting for change on a wayward generation ship and about a million things more that I can't really even start to describe. It's high quality, large scope space opera science fiction subject matter is a relatively rarity in an market increasingly skewed toward Vampires and Fantasy.

Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth - Karen Miller

I love Star Wars. Karen Miller's Star Wars work has been surprisingly good. But if you don't read Star Wars, don't worry about this one.

If you are going to read just one book this month, good luck picking. While all these books are on my to read list, the YetiStomper Pick for February is a three way tie between The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Conqueror's Shadow, and Horns. The other books should be great but aside from The Adamantine Palace (which has been out in the UK) all the other books require some prior reading. If you are looking for something darker go with Horns, a Abercrombian Fantasy go with The Conqueror's Shadow, and if you want to read one of the most unique and well-reviewed debut fantasies I've seen in a long time, go with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It's your call.

Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. I'm more interested in telling you why I recommended them rather than simply what the books are about. out there. Let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments? And which one of these covers is your favorite?

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here
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