One of my favourite features of SFSignal has always been their Mind Melds, where they get together a big group of well-known authors/publishers/bloggers and all pit them with a question.

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Well, this week, along with the likes of (Hugo Winner) Mike Resnick, David Drake and a bunch of others, I was asked to answer a simple question:

What book or books hold special memories for you? What are they?

To which I responded:

I hate to stumble into a dreadful cliché, but the title that jumps immediately to mind for me is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. You see, I’ve always been a voracious reader, but during my grade-school years it was always Adventure (The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall, which, in retrospect, is probably more Fantasy-ish than I realized) and Science Fiction (Tom Swift by, erm…Victor Appleton II and any novel I could get my hands on by Michael Crichton) and dismissed Fantasy as being ‘full of unicorns and princesses, only for pansies and my mom” – an eloquent, but not terribly original opinion for a 10-year-old boy, but there it is.

Then, in the summer after Grade Six, for some unfathomable reason (probably very subtle hinting from my mother, if I know her), I picked up The Hobbit, and, well, the rest is history.

Needless to say, Tolkien blew away my preconceptions and opened a myriad of doorways to whole new realms of possibility. He began my love-affair with Fantasy and I try my damndest to read The Hobbit once a year, counting it as my second-favourite novel, behind only…

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon sat on my bookshelf for, literally, years before I finally read it. I think, more than anything, I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the hype heaped upon it. So it sat, neglected and gathering dust … which is rather fitting, when one considers the story within.
Then, with a 2 month Eastern-European backpacking trip around the corner, I figured it was finally time to dive in and give the book a shot. I began it on the plane ride over and Zafon’s words still haunt me, almost a year later.

The obvious combination of a life-changing nine-week period coupled with a hauntingly beautiful book have carved a special place in my heart, and I’d give almost anything to be able to be back in that place – rumbling traincar; the beautiful, rugged landscape of the Czech Republic and Slovakia; The Shadow of the Wind glued to my hand. Ahh, memories!

The final book that sticks out is The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, the first of his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, a classic in the genre. What’s interesting about it, though, isn’t how I fell in love with it from the first page, but rather how I couldn’t get into it, despite wanting to fall head-over-heels.

In fact, I read it three-and-a-half times before I finally discovered the beauty! The first couple of times I managed to finish it, even reading a bit of the sequel, The Stone of Farewell once, but just lacked interest in the story. One time I couldn’t even make it past the half-way point.

But, being a stubborn jackass, I picked it up for a forth time… and fell completely, utterly in love. I still can’t explain what the difference was this time (I was older; I had enjoyed Shadowmarch by Williams; I was a fan of slower narrative novels, like Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy), but everything just clicked and I burned through the rest of the trilogy in short order. I now considering Memory, Sorrow and Thorn to be my favourite completed Fantasy series. Not a bad turn-around, eh?

Of course, the list could go on forever (if I included the likes of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which saved me from getting jaded on reading; or The Elfstones of Shannara, which filled that void after I had finished Tolkien; or The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams, which is a huge inspiration for my Work-in-progress; or The Anubis Gates, which took me forever to track down and was worth every second of the search), but I won’t ramble… too much.

Taking part in Mind Meld has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so it’s a bit of a thrill to see my name, and my list of books, up there with the rest of them. Of course, next to the rest of the folk, I sounded like a rambling little babe, just crawled out from the crib, but it was fun nonetheless! I even got to write a bio for myself.

Be sure to check out the rest of the replies HERE.

News spread a week ago that the final volume in Tad William’s Shadowmarch trilogy, Shadowrise, would be split into two volumes, each only a bit smaller than the first two volumes. Not a terrible surprise, considering each of William’s series have ended up being four books (if you consider the paperback release of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.)

Well, hot on the heels of that news comes the cover art for what is now the third volume in the tetralogy:

Shadowrise by Tad Williams, the third volume in the Shadowmarch trilogy

These days I find Todd Lockwood’s art to be a little hit-or-miss, especially his paintings that don’t include action (his strength, in my opinion), but I think this one works in an otherworldly way that Shadowplay didn’t.

What do you think?

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon SandersonBack when Robert Jordan was still alive, there was a lot of talk (and even a novel, New Spring) about novels set outside of the mainline Wheel of Time series. Oddly enough, even Jordan’s passing was not enough to quell the rumours.

Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen to complete Jordan’s series, spoke out (rather bluntly) about his opinion on expanding the series beyond the planned 13 volumes:

Mr. Jordan spoke with Tor (and even signed contracts) regarding some other books set in the WoT universe. The talk was originally centered on the three prequels Mr. Jordan wanted to write (New Spring, which was published, was the first of these three.) Later, Mr. Jordan shifted the discussion to something called “The Outriggers” which were within WoT continuity, taking place after the end of the series. They were to deal with some certain characters from the main storyline, expanding on their lives.

[…]

I think that Harriet and I are on the same page when we say we’ve got our hands full with the three books of A MEMORY OF LIGHT. Really, this is big enough a project for now, and all of our energies are focused on making certain these last novels are everything they need to be.

[…]

That doesn’t answer your questions though, does it? Will the other books get written? Here’s where we get vague, because I simply can’t tell you a yes or a no.

The decision will be Harriet’s. She gets to make the call. And since all of her energy is focused on these last three books, I suspect we’re not going to know the fate of the Outriggers or the Prequels for some time yet. I’m afraid you’ll just have to be patient.

At JordanCon, Tom Doherty (CEO of Tor) mentioned the Outriggers and how excited he is for them. (They would be about his favorite character.) Tom has been very involved in the WoT all through its life, and is a huge fan.

[…]

Tom wants the Outriggers.

[…]

I don’t want to see the Wheel of Time turn into an eternal franchise. I said this last weekend at my signing in Montreal. Part of the value of a great work of art is, in my opinion, the ending. An ending loses power if it isn’t allowed to be…well, the END.

[…]

I haven’t specifically told Harriet not to do the Outriggers. That isn’t my place. When she’s asked for my input, I’ve said “My suggestion is to be very, very careful. I would err on the side of protecting Jim’s legacy, and don’t know if it would be appropriate to do any more books.” However, if she asks me to do them, I will most probably say yes.

Why? Well, a couple of reasons. My soul is not part of the Wheel of Time. This series is NOT mine–it is Harriet’s and it is yours. But my soul is in there, and it would be very hard to let someone else write it. Almost as hard as it would be to let go of another series. My reasoning would be the same as my reasoning behind picking up AMOL in the first place. If Mr. Jordan’s not here, I want to make certain that someone who respects the series is writing on it.

[…]

I have told Harriet, and I have repeated it on blogs, that I would say no (though it would hurt to do so) if a decision were made to go beyond the Outriggers and the prequels.

But please, understand. There has been very little talk of these things. AMOL is what NEEDS to be done.

Phew! Believe it or not, this is a very abridged version of Sanderson’s thoughts on the subject (say anything about the man, but don’t say he doesn’t like to talk!) and it’s interesting to see him struggling to straddle the line between fan and author of the series.

Out of respect for Jordan, it seems like it would behoove Tor to let the series stand, after Sanderson has completed it. Even as it is, there are fans out there who are unhappy with someone else getting their hands on Jordan’s series, and I have a hard time believing that whole new novels (written mostly without guidance from Jordan’s notes, which were plentiful for A Memory of Light) would go over well.

My own opinion about it is that one can’t help but feel that any attempt to expand the world beyond the main series would be nothing more than a money-grab, taking advantage of Jordan’s immense popularity. Just take a look at what happened to the Dune series after Frank Herbert passed away and control of the series fell to Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert.

In any case, it’s worth taking a look at Sanderson’s whole account of the Outrigger Trilogy over at Dragonmount.

SciFiGuy.ca posted the cover of Jim Butcher’s Changes, the next (12th) volume in the Dresden Files series.

Changes, volume 12 of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files

Changes is a pretty dumpy name, especially considering Buthcher’s novels usually have pretty nice titles (The Summer Knight, Grave Peril, Small Favor, etc…), but I certainly can’t complain about another great cover from Chris McGrath. Certainly a huge step up from the original covers for the series.

From the official blog:

Hugo Awards Logo

The jurors were impressed with the standard of submissions, and of the many very different conceptions of the award, and were thrilled by how many of the submissions made their shortlist.

In making their decision our expert jury took a wide range of factors into account. Many very attractive pieces of art were rejected because they were too complex to be effective when added to a book or DVD cover. In other cases excellent images were let down by weak typography. The winner, designed by Jeremy Kratz of Arkansas, combined both the necessary simplicity to fulfill our requirements with a good choice of text and pleasing combination of the various elements of the design.

We would like to thank all of the people who entered the contest, and congratulate Jeremy on his win.

It’s a nice design – clean and classic – but I’m a little worried about scalability. With the Rocket being so tall, the lettering could get very hard to read once it’s scaled do small enough to fit on the cover of a book.

In case you’re interested, here’s my submission to the contest:

Aidan Moher's submission to the Hugo Award Logo Contest

What do you think of the new Hugo logo?