What’s better than free fiction? Free fiction that’s considered some of the best published in the past year. Here’s a rundown of the Hugo-nominated short stories, novellas, novelettes, and even a novel that’re legally available for free reading.
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold — Download via Baen Books
Best Short Story
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn — Read on Lightspeed
“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal — Read on Robinette’s website
“Ponies” by Kij Johnson — Read on Tor.com
“The Things” by Peter Watts — Read on Clarkesworld
“Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen — Read on McMullen’s website
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard — Read on de Bodard’s website
“Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly — Read on Kelly’s website
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone — Read on Stone’s website
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky — Read on Subterranean Press
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang — Read on Subterranean Press
“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis — Download a PDF from Asimov’s
That should keep you busy for a while, huh? Enjoy!
Night had come to the city of Skalandarharia, the sort of night with such a quality of black to it that it was as if black coal had been wrapped in blackest velvet, bathed in the purple-black ink of the demon squid Drindel and flung down a black well that descended toward the deepest, blackest crevasses of Drindelthengen, the netherworld ruled by Drindel, in which the sinful were punished, the black of which was so legendarily black that when the dreaded Drindelthengenflagen, the ravenous blind black badger trolls of Drindelthengen, would feast upon the uselessly dilated eyes of damned, the abandoned would cry out in joy as the Drindelthengenflagenmorden, the feared Black Spoons of the Drindelthengenflagen, pressed against their optic nerves, giving them one last sensation of light before the most absolute blackness fell upon them, made yet even blacker by the injury sustained from a falling lump of ink-bathed, velvet-wrapped coal.
I’ll be honest. As much as I’ve always enjoyed Scalzi’s Science Fiction novels, I have also yearned for the day when he’d finally make a leap into the more viable, much more enjoyable realm of Fantasy. Inspired by many of the most prominent self-published novels of the past several years, The Shadow War of the Night Dragon: Book One: The Dead City finally looks to be that leap towards respectability that Scalzi’s always needed.
As for the cover itself: at first I was worried that that the typography was a little over the top—I mean, it’s huge, lime green and longer than healthy, but the more I look at the cover, the more I think it just… works. It’s certainly something that would catch a readers eye at the bookstore, and that’s the true purpose of cover art. What I appreciate most, however, is that the artist, the lovely John Stanko, hasn’t gone out of his way to emulate/trace/photograph a bunch of J-Crew models, but, instead went down to his local pub, rounded up some of the fellows sitting long-faced over their beers and used them as inspiration. It gives the novel a more genuine feel and makes me believe they could take on that scary Dragon lurking in the shadows of the background.
If you’re as curious about The Shadow War of the Night Dragon: Book One: The Dead City as I am, Tor.com has an early excerpt out. Review copies are expected within the next week or so, so keep an eye out for an early review later this month! Now, to go brush up on my Cthulhu-language so I can pronounce some of those names…
Sam Sykes is a good Internet friend of mine. Why? Because he’d crotch-stomp me if I said any differently. He’s also a bloody good interview, achingly funny and of similar age to myself. It’s like we’re destined to be buddies.
You’ll notice, perhaps, that I’ve not said anything about his books. Easily explainable. You see… I haven’t read them. Derp. What a friend I am, huh? Still, doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about the release of his second novel, Black Halo (or move his first novel, Tome of the Undergates even closer to the top of my TBR pile…). Luckily the good folks at Tor.com have Sam’s fans better covered than I do.
Dawn had never been so quiet in the country.
Amid the sparse oases in the desert, noise had thrived where all other sound had died. Dawn came with songbirds, beds creaking as people rousted themselves for labor, bread and water sloshed down as meager breakfast. In the country, the sun came with life.
In the city, life ended with the sun.
Anacha stared from her balcony over Cier’Djaal as the sun rose over its rooftops and peeked through its towers to shine on the sand-covered streets below. The city, in response, seemed to draw tighter in on itself, folding its shadows like a blanket as it rolled over and told the sun to let it sleep for a few more moments.
No songbirds came to Anacha’s ears; merchants sold such songs in the market for prices she could not afford. No sounds of beds; all clients slept on cushions on the floor, that their late-night visitors might not wake them when leaving. No bread, no water; breakfast would be served when the clients were gone and the girls might rest up from the previous night.
A frown crossed her face as she observed the scaffolding and lazy bricks of a tower being raised right in front of her balcony. It would be done in one year, she had heard the workers say.
One year, she thought, and then the city steals the sun from me, too.
So, head on over to Tor.com and read a lengthy excerpt from Black Halo and support young Sam Sykes. I get to keep my balls intact and un-mushed, you get to read a good story and Sam gets to feel special. Really, it’s a win-win(-win) situation.
The children of the embassy all saw the boat land. Their teachers and shiftparents had had them painting it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. It’s been centuries since any voidcraft vented fire, as they imagined this one doing, but it’s a tradition to represent them with such trails. When I was young, I painted ships the same way.
I looked at the pictures and the man beside me leaned in too. ‘Look,’ I said.
‘See? That’s you.’ A face at the boat’s window.
The man smiled. He gripped a pretend wheel like the simply rendered figure.
‘You have to excuse us,’ I said, nodding at the decorations.
‘We’re a bit parochial.’
‘No, no,’ the pilot said. I was older than him, dressed-up and dropping slang to tell him stories. He enjoyed me flustering him. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘that’s not…It is amazing though. Coming here. To the edge. With Lord knows what’s beyond.’ He looked into the Arrival Ball.
There were other parties: seasonals; comings-out; graduations and yearsends; the three Christmases of December; but the Arrival Ball was always the most important. Dictated by the vagaries of trade winds, it was irregular and rare. It had been years since the last.
China Mieville’s a big deal these days.
How big? The City & The City was nominated for almost every single genre award (and won many of them). Perdido Street Station was recently chosen by readers of Tor.com as one of the ‘Best SFF Novels of the Decade’ in a reader poll. But, perhaps the most damning evidence is a recent party thrown by Tor UK to celebrate… the announcement of new cover art for his old books.
Yeah. Not a new book announcement. Not a celebration of his success on the awards circuit. Not a milestone in his career. New book covers.
Hidden in amongst this ‘celebration’ were several bloggers and industry folk who, by attending the party, were able to acquire early galleys of Mieville’s hotly anticipated Embassytown, the author’s first foray into hard Space Opera. Jealous fits could be heard the world over from those fans who didn’t get a copy.
Well, it’s not a galley, but now Mieville fans can get an early glimpse of Embassytown courtesy of Pan Macmillan (Mieville’s UK publisher), who have made the prologue and Chapter One of Embassytown available on their website.
Down on eBooks? Love dead trees? Maybe this will change your mind (just a little.)
Orbit Books is running a promotion that should get everyone excited. If you buy the eBook edition of either The Dragon’s Path (REVIEW) or Leviathan Wakes, Orbit will give you the other eBook for free. No strings attached.
Orbit (US), the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group, announced an eBook promotion for THE DRAGON’S PATH by Daniel Abraham and LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey. The bonus eBook edition of THE DRAGON’S PATH (April 11, 2011; ISBN: 9780316175074) will feature a complimentary edition of LEVIATHAN WAKES in the same eBook package; while the bonus eBook edition of LEVIATHAN WAKES (June 15, 2011; ISBN: 9780316134675) will include THE DRAGON’S PATH.
Obviously this is a great deal for readers. Buy a wonderful book, get another wonderful book for free. More interesting, though, is Orbit’s clever trojan horse tactics to expose readers to a genre they’re perhaps not familiar with. There’s obvious crossover in Fantasy and Science Fiction readers, but if the blogosphere is any indication, there are also a lot of readers who fall solely into one genre or the other. By offering SF readers a Fantasy novel (that is no doubt going to garner some mention during the end-of-the-year ‘best of’ lists) and Fantasy readers a SF novel, Orbit is opening the doors and inviting such readers across to the other side with wide open arms. What better way to try out a new genre than with a free eBook from an author you already enjoy?
Tim Holman, Publisher and Vice President of Orbit Books, says as much:
Although the two genres are often categorized alongside each other, direct cross-promotion of new Science Fiction and Fantasy releases in this way is quite new. We’re very excited to be giving readers the chance to discover both these exciting new series at the same time.
The marketing and selling of eBooks has a lot of room to grow and evolve, but this is one sign that the publishing industry is finally catching on to the nature of digital content.