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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Transition Time | Staffer's Book Review Moves to Wordpress

The next few weeks may be a little rough around these parts as I smooth out my transition to WordPress. I'm marginally savvy with these things, but I'm finding this transition a little harder. DNS, as far as I'm concerned, might as well be Sanskrit. In any case, I'm hoping that the transition will be mostly seamless for everyone.

RSS subscribers should see no change as I've burned the feed to this new site. For those who visit me via bookmark, I'll be forwarding you here from the old Google Blog.

Thanks for reading, more to come soon. The blog can be found at:

Monday, September 17, 2012

A New Project | Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year's Best Online Reviews & Commentary

Press release originally appeared on Pornokitsch: 
Jurassic London are pleased to announce Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year's Best Online Reviews & Commentary, capturing the best of 2012's blogs, websites and other digital publications.  
With the online reviewing community larger than ever before, Speculative Fiction aims to both capture and celebrate the best in genre non-fiction: the top book reviews, criticism and essays of the year. 
The collection will be edited by Justin Landon (Staffer's Book Review) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch).  
Speculative Fiction will be available February 2013. All proceeds will go to charity (partner TBA). 
The editors are currently seeking recommendations. Pieces must be longer than 500 words. This is a reprint anthology: work must have been first published online, in 2012 and not in a professional publication. 
Recommendations should be submitted here: Speculative Fiction 2012.
Payment will be on publication, at the reprint rate of one cent a word, plus a contributor copy.

Expect more announcements as we move through the process, but generally speaking, Jared and I both feel very strongly that this is an important project. The internet is an incredible place. Post something here and it's here forever. But, that's a blessing and a curse.

Years and years of reviews and commentary about genre fiction have occurred and been lost to memory, occasionally found in a Google search, but more often queried on Twitter, "Anyone know where to find that great post?" We want to help create a record, a snapshot in time of what was important today.

Give us a hand, huh?

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Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

'To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.'
Bertrand Russell - Marriage and Morals (1929)
That use of the word parts in that Bertrand Russell quote should be read as quarters. Fearing life is to be three quarters dead already. Undoubtedly the source of the title for Max Gladstone's debut novel Three Parts Dead, it offers some interesting insight into the purpose behind this legal thriller vis`-a-vis´ fantasy.

Kos the god of fire, is dead. But, in Alt Coulumn, death doesn't have to be permanent. No longer responding to His faithful nor fulfilling His contracts, the firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao have been called in to represent the Church in Kos's resurrection and restructuring of His obligations. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will fail, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.
". . .When a god makes deals with other people, deities or Craftsmen, they borrow his power, his blood, through those holes. Out when it's paid out, and in when it returns, increased by the terms of the contract."
What appeared on the surface to be an accidental death is in truth much more and Tara, a first-year associate necromancer, soon finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.

Read more »

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley

November is almost here, which for those of us in the United States means election time. It's easy to get caught up in the rhetoric that's espoused at the conventions. What springs from that is a crazy notion that the two American political parties are separated by a legion of issues from abortion, to fiscal responsibility, to same sex marriage, to defense policy.

While it's certainly true that the extremes of the two parties disagree on most of these items, many of those who identify closer to center find themselves separated by one fundamental ideology. Democrats believe government creates opportunities, and Republicans believe it restricts them. Who's right? I've no idea and both parties often find themselves in hypocritical boxes (Pro-life policies for example seem more big government, than not). But, I often wish the debate could center around this issue because there's a lot of great academic work that's been done from both perspectives.

Why do I bring this up? John Varley's Slow Apocalypse, released September 4, contains a lot of political back drop, particularly as it relates to the government's role. Not in a traditional political sense, but asking the question of when everything goes to pieces, to whom can I turn to put it back together? Is it the government? Or is me? Varley answers the question resoundingly with the latter, demonstrating the failures of of the 'system' and the weaknesses it has foisted on us all.

Read more »

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

WorldCon Link Round-up (for those of us who didn't make it)

I didn't make it to WorldCon this year, for a host of reasons, not the least of which was the complete unwillingness of airlines to provide me with reasonable flight times. But, after reading all of these posts I'm linking here, I feel like I was there. (Not really, but it's SOMETHING!)

First up some news:

3. The raft of changes to the Fanzine and Semiprozine category were also ratified. An attempt by hardliners to exclude electronic fanzines was defeated (I keep hoping they’ll give up, but I may have to wait for them to die). The main result of these changes will be that Locus is no longer eligible in Semiprozine as it has full-time staff. Liza Groen Trombi is, of course, still eligible in Best Editor: Short Form.
It's nice to see that blogs will be able to continue eligibility. I still believe that over time blogs will largely replace the traditional FanZine. I'm curious about everyone's opinions on the YA category. Personally, I don't want to pull it out as its own, but I understand the argument and it holds some water.

Harper Voyager is “actively seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines” to submit manuscripts for consideration for a new digital-first line, Impulse. Submissions will be open for two weeks only, October 1–14, Distribution for accepted, published titles will be worldwide (world English rights). Executive Editor Diana Gill says they’re looking for “novels, novellas, short stories, interstitials.” Get those manuscripts polished up!
Interesting. Voyager has been way behind all the other big-six genre imprints. I'll be interested to see where this goes. Another cool point in there is that San Antonio WorldCon will be offering a Spanish language programming track.

[This post has been taken down and all comments have been hidden, as we erroneously reported on matters that were confidential. Many apologies from the management to SFWA and everyone else affected.]

However, there was nothing close about the final vote in the Best Fanzine category. SF Signal, the popular blog, started with a 137 vote lead over 2011 winner The Drink Tank and still led by 97 votes when all the traditional fanzines had been eliminated. In the last round SF Signal and The Drink Tank essentially split File 770’sremaining votes with a preference.
Couldn't be happier about this. SF Signal does great work and I'm pleased to see a blog recognized. I'll write more on this in the future.

Some journal style posts:

Kameron Hurley on Attending Conventions After a Long Absence:
I made a lot of mistakes, the chief one being not planning any meals or coffee dates or bar dates with anyone, which means I missed a lot of people. The other was not preparing better with opening salvo conversations for writers I did want to see and could have touched base with when I saw them across the convention hall if I actually had something I’d prepared to say beyond, “Oh, it’s YOU! It’s good to see you!” Because of this, I had a very Twitter-like con, where I felt like I was constantly babbling to people in 140 word chunks and then running off to find a beer or a book or a clue.

I do think sometimes we mistake the unintentional brush-off for deliberate dismissal. But speaking as an author and HUGO-AWARD WINNING BLOGGER (sorry - the squee is still slipping out occasionally), I also think it’s on me to be more aware of how easy it is to make someone feel blown off, and to try harder to avoid doing that.'

Howard Andrews Jones blow by every blow (long):
It wasn’t long ago that I’d arrive at a convention and be surrounded by strangers or literary luminaries I was too nervous to approach. When I turn up these days there are still a lot of strangers, but there are plenty of familiar faces as well. Before I’d even checked in I bumped into Tom Doyle, and shortly after registering my complaint with Patrick Rothfuss I was welcomed by Arin Komins and Rich Warren to their used books booth, Starfarer’s Dispatch.

The Night Bazaar party was a hit - we must've had something like 100 books to give away between the lot of us. We stuck to last year's giveaway plan: "Eat a bug, get a book." Enough intrepid folks chowed down on cheddar crickets and sour cream-n-onion worms to carry off every single one of those books by the night's end. (Nobody was brave enough to try the scorpion taffy, though, to our amusement.)

The first panel I was on was the poorly conceptualized "after the first two pages"—as if page three is some sort of endemic problem. There was also the issue of hookism, but most of the panelists were interested in pushing past the strictures of the panel and just discussing storytelling and such. At the end, we did get the one strange question:How many flashbacks should there be in a chapter? "Three to five," I said, but nobody in panel audiences ever gets the hint, so we were treated to an increasingly baroque summary of the audience member's first chapter, which features a character with two personalities, both of whom are suffering from memory loss, so of course there needs to be plenty of flashbacks, right? Right?

Sounds like WorldCon was a blast, but like the one last year in Reno, there were some complaints. Programming appears to have been a bit of a mess and, as always, WorldCon is so large that it's easy to completely miss the people you came to see. As someone who loves sitting down with 5 or 6 people and having deep conversations, WorldCon seems a bit counter intuitive.

I'm definitely planning to go next year in San Antonio. Anyone need a roommate?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollock writes beautiful prose. It's the first thing I noticed about his debut novel, The City's Son. So good in fact, that it buoys a straight forward young adult urban fantasy to new heights. It's a rare novel of that ilk that's able to hook me enough to give it a full run. I was pleased that not only did it engage me enough to finish the novel, but I found myself coming back to it time and again despite finding the plot just short of boring.

I admit that last sentence is about the biggest back handed compliment I've ever given someone. Guilty as charged, however, it's not that simple. Allow me to explain.

Beth is a trouble maker, daughter of a Hackney widower with a penchant for artistic tagging, and she's pulling her best friend Pen Khan down with her. After a rough encounter with corrupt school administrators, Beth runs away from her endlessly grieving father. In London's back alleys, she sees something she should never have seen. Caught up in the divine forces on which the city is built, she finds herself in a war between London's deep history and her ruthlessly modern future.
The architecture grew darker, stranger: a heavily graffiti'd old cinema building, its neon sign long-dead and its doors shuttered; an electricity sub-station half-hidden behind a cloud of razor-wire, and everywhere, the cranes massed on the skyline like cruel sentinels.
City's Son is a love story, both in the traditional sense and otherwise. Beth is struggling through life. She's a teenager who lacks direction. Her dad is checked out. She's falling through the cracks. Her brilliance is unappreciated by anyone other than her best friend. Pollock guides the reader through her awakening to the world outside her own skull--her love for the people around her and their love for her. Not love as excretion as so often is the case in juvenile fiction (notice, I didn't say young adult as adult fiction can often be more juvenile this regard than the younger variety), rather love as acceptance, both of herself and others.

Read more »

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Comic Books Galore! (Visiting Mom and Dad)

I don't read comics anymore, but I sure used to. For the last three weeks I've been on a work trip, which blissfully coincides with where I grew up. I've been staying with my folks in the same room I was raised in, albeit with a much different decor aesthetic (mom didn't dig bikini clad women, wtf?). I'll be getting on a plane later tonight to head home.

In packing up, I stumbled across a few boxes in the closet. I thought some of you might get a kick out of what I found:

Is that the first issue of almost every one of Image's launch titles? Yes, yes it is.

Spawn #1, Cyber Force #1, Spawn #1 Signed
Youngblood #1, WILDCATS #1, Shadow Hawk #1, Shaman's Tears #1
StormWatch #1, The Maxx #1, Savage Dragon #1
Team 7 #1, Brigade #1

Tribe #1, Savage Dragon #1 (alternate?)

And then some old Marvel favorites:

Cable #1, X-Men #1 signed by Jim Lee

Quasar #1 (LOL?), X-Force #1, Hawkeye #1

 Did they actually MAKE these comics? And did I read them?

Turok #1, Darker Image #1
ALF, ThunderCats, KingArthur
As it turns out I own something like 250 different comic books. Lots of G.I. Joe and X-Men and New Mutants. I was also very in to Image at one point, who knew?

It was a fun trip down memory lane. I got a kick out of it, hope you did too.

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