Yearly Archives: 2010

The Stable Master’s Tale by Rachel Swirsky is a modern parable, with echos of the bite found in the works of The Brothers Grimm. Though there’re no animals in sight, Swirsky has a point to make, a moral to bring to light, and she does so in a grim, honest way that reveals both the light and the dark in humanity. We’re neither good, nor bad. Rather, we’re both at once.

It’s painful to remember them–my brothers, my sisters, my parents, my cousins. When I do, a single memory dominates. It was summer and I was six summers old, standing in the corral with my eldest brother. The day was hot and golden, the air strong with the reek of flowers and horse droppings. My brother sat beside me, stealing a moment to practice the flute he’d wheedled from our nurse.

A great wind began to blow. My brother jumped to his feet. At first, I thought he was scared; my brother was as lazy as a housecat, and ordinarily nothing but a swat on the rear could make him move quickly. The horses panicked, tossing their heads, eyes wild. The rushing wind gained speed. Yet my brother laughed. He spread his arms to the sky.

“What? What is it?” I demanded.

He picked me up. I saw nothing. “Look toward the mountains,” he shouted.

Suddenly, I saw them: great, golden bodies extending enormous gossamer wings. There were half a dozen flying in a circle, chasing each other’s tails. Sunlight sparkled off their bodies. They were glorious and terrifying.

I whimpered and hid my eyes.

“Don’t worry,” my brother said. “They’re too far away to hurt you.”

The great golden bodies circled in the darkness behind my eyelids. They were terrifying. They were beautiful. By the time I opened my eyes, the dragons were gone.

I did not see a dragon again for many years.

Swirsky’s prose is suitable to the tone of the story, and the voice of her nameless narrator is lively, but never so overwhelming that it takes the focus away from the themes and plot of the novel. It’s a novel about both the relationship between a girl and a dragon, and the parallels in their respective imprisonments (her’s through choices she’s made, its through mutilation and literal captivity), and also explores the limits of the human propensity to allow greed and narrow-mindedness to lead to self-destruction. Swirsky never forgets the ultimate strength of the classic fables: though they’ve a lesson to tell, but they never forget that they’re supposed to be fun. Like the best stories, The Stable Master’s Tale could potentially be read, and enjoyed, by young and old alike, It’s never bogged down by overwrought prose or too heavy moralism. Even with the themes removed, it’s a classic bed time tale.

In recent years, Rachel Swirsky’s short fiction has shown up on ballots for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards (among other honours). Though The Stable Master’s Tale is not one of her nominated works (and likely won’t be, given that it treads very familiar ground, unlike works such as The Memory of Wind and Eros, Philia, Agape), it’s more than enough to convince me that Swirsky is more than capable of sitting alongside writers like Caitlin R. Kiernan and Saladin Ahmed atop my list of exciting young authors to keep an eye on.

You can read for free The Stable Master’s Tale on the Fantasy Magazine Website.

Cover Art for the limited edition of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Yummy art? Over-the-top typography? It must be another great Subterranean Press cover! I’ve been waiting for this for a while, and it’s certainly no let down. Sure, it doesn’t have share the stylistic approach of Abercrombie’s general releases (which I still prefer), but it’s a great, moody piece of art that shows a different side of Abercrombie’s series. I’m particularly fond of the deep red font contrasting the cool blue hues of the art.

It’s interesting to see Alex Preuss‘ style veer more towards Fantasy in this piece, given that some people (myself included) felt that the recently released interior artwork felt too much like an image you’d find in a Science Fiction novel. It speaks to a nice diversity, and I can’t wait to see the rest of the artwork.

Opinions? Any guess what the scene of the cover conveys?

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Whether you love it or not, the John Picacio cover for Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City got people talking when it was first revealed. Wrapped inside that cover is a novel that sounds worth the fuss. Pulling on Beukes’ background living in South Africa, Zoo City takes Urban Fantasy from the overused settings of New York City, London or Chicago and drops it down in Africa, a drive for diversity that looks to add some much-needed variety to the genre. Using the widget above, you can get a sneak peak at Zoo City, which releases September, 2010 in Australia and the UK, and January 2011 in North America.

From SFScope:

Peter V. Brett sold a stand-alone novella, Brayan’s Gold, to Subterranean Press, via agent Joshua Bilmes. The volume will be “heavily illustrated by artist Lauren K. Cannon.”

Good news for Brett Fans. Cannon‘s got a great (but slightly NSFW) portfolio, is the original designer of the wards that appear in the series, and has already designed bookplates based on The Demon Cycle. Looks like a good match.

Like The Great Bazaar, it’s likely that Brayan’s Gold will fill in some of the gaps left out of the mainline novels, The Warded Man and The Desert Spear.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

From Erikson’s Facebook account (via The Wertzone):

GASP! That would be me, coming up for air. How long was I down there? About twenty years, from conception to completion. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is done. Sure, editing and all that crap to follow. But … done. I don’t know who I am. Who am I again? What planet is this? Three months of butterflies … maybe this double whiskey will fix that. Hmm. No. Delayed reaction going on here.

He’s been working on the damn thing for nearly as long as I’ve been alive! For Malazan fans, and the Fantasy genre as a whole, it’s a pretty monumental achievement. Now, whether he’ll wrap it up in a satisfying manner remains to be seen (given the flagging opinion of the later books in the series), but either way, he’s certainly proved to be prolific, publishing near a novel a year (at 900+ pages, no less). Hell of an achievement.

Congrats, Steve!