Buy Speculative Fiction 2013, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James: Book

Buy Speculative Fiction 2013, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

In 2013, Jared Shurin and Justin Landon published Speculative Fiction 2012, the first volume of a new anthology series aimed at collecting the best speculative fiction essays, commentaries, and reviews from around the internet. I was pleased to contribute my own essay on George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons.

This year, the editorial reins were handed to the wonderful Ana Grilo and Thea James, otherwise known as The Book Smugglers, who today have revealed the cover for Speculative Fiction 2013 and the list of contributors for the latest volume.

Speculative Fiction 2013 collects over fifty truly awesome pieces from all corners of speculative fiction fandom,” they said. “From book criticism to incisive commentary on important issues like sexual harassment at conventions; from feminist themes in summer blockbusters to life-changing video games; from the merits of grittiness and the downfalls of grimdark.”

And what would an anthology be without a foreword from someone fancy and fun? James and Grilo rounded up Seanan McGuire, she of many, many Hugo nominations, to introduce the volume. “Seanan is the author of the Toby Daye urban fantasy series, and, under pseudonym Mira Grant, the Newsflesh trilogy and Parasite. She’s also a Hugo Award-winning podcaster, and a prolific blogger – making her the perfect person to introduce this year’s edition of SpecFic,” described Grilo and James. Read More »

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press - Pages: 416 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Set in Henrietta, Virginia, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys exhibits characteristics of the “southern novel”, a form I associate strongly with Tom Wolfe or Harper Lee. Novels of the American South tend to focus on the gross inequalities that exist there, often couched in racial terms, but also the nature of inherited wealth juxtaposed with the lack of opportunity that exists in the more urban centers. In the case of The Raven Boys, Stiefvater creates that paradigm between Blue Sargent, daughter to a poor, but comfortable, and exceedingly proficient psychic, and four boys from Aglionby, a feeder high school for the Ivy League.

The Raven Boys is an examination of the power dynamics between people.

For all her life, Blue has been warned that Aglionby boys are trouble. They’re rich and live by a code that means the rules don’t apply to them. These Aglionby boys–Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah–would be no different, except they can’t accept the lives they’ve been given. They want something more, for themselves and for each other. Bound up in a brotherhood dedicated to uncovering a measure of magic in the world, the boys come to Blue and her family for help. While the story is a quest, the novel is hardly about it at all. Not just about the unequal nature of the American South, The Raven Boys is an examination of the power dynamics between people. The power we give to others over us, and the power we reserve for ourselves. In other words, it’s a novel of character and the connections that bind them together. Read More »

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Bring on the controversy, and strap in for a devil’s advocate view through some eye-opening history, because certain game-changing books were never ‘discovered spontaneously.’ Notably, the profile of these landmark fantasy authors share a profile of mature scope and depth, and stories that open with adult protagonists.

First, busting the myth that Tolkien was ‘discovered’ and broke out by readership word of mouth is not true: Betty Ballantine’s actual account relates how Tolkien’s career blossomed through a publishing scandal.

Allen Unwin first published Professor Tolkien in Great Britain in hardbound. At the time, copyright law in the USA protected up to 2000 unbound copies of a book to be imported as loose pages, to be bound and sold by a US firm. Houghton Mifflin handled Tolkien this way, in routine partnership with Allen Unwin. Nobody paid much attention, though Ian and Betty Ballantine loved the story and offered for paperback rights. Professor Tolkien declined, avoiding what he considered a tacky American edition. Over a period of ten years, when the British edition underwent reprint, repeated lots of unbound sheets of were brought in and sold by Houghton Mifflin in quiet obscurity. Enter a certain paperback publisher’s back room lawyers, who tracked publication records, trolling for the loophole that titles compiling more than the allotted 2,000 loose sheets slid into the public domain. On that legal technicality, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was reprinted as the very lurid paperback professor Tolkien had wished to avoid, and worse, with no royalties owed to the author. Read More »

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

As anyone who followed my reviews in 2013 knows, I’m a slavering fan-boy for Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy (Reviews: , Shattered Pillars, Steles of the Sky). Seriously. It’s the best completed fantasy trilogy I’ve read in a decade. Along with Kameron Hurley, I think that Bear is publishing some of the most progressive, interesting and important SFF today.

So, needless to say, I’m pretty excited to see that the first details about Bear’s next novel, Karen Memory, have been revealed. An I think you should be, too.

In conversation with Liz Bourke on Tor.com, Bear said:

Currently I’m working on a wild west Steampunk novel called Karen Memory, which is coming out from Tor in 2015. It involves heroic saloon girls, massive conspiracies, and at least one fascinating and oft-ignored historical character.

While fans of her fantasy trilogy might be disappointed to see Bear leaving the epic fantasy subgenre, I’m excited to see that she’s continuing to explore the boundaries of genre fiction. Bear is one of the genre’s more diverse and exploratory writers, and readers can expect the same level of care and thoughtfulness that she applied to epic fantasy to be shown towards Steampunk and its (very popular) tropes and traditions.

Karen Memory is slated for release in 2015 from Tor Books.

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They were easy to spot: each was an accidental heroine, wholly unaware of her strengths, concerned to the point of obsession with her shortcomings.

In 1996 Helen Fielding burst onto the scene with Bridget Jones’ Diary, a novel-in-journal entries featuring a hapless, slightly overweight thirty-something struggling to land a boyfriend. The book went on to sell 2 million copies and, soon after, became a blockbuster film starring Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger. Predictably, in the years that followed, we began to see the “Bridget Jones” character everywhere. They were easy to spot: each was an accidental heroine, wholly unaware of her strengths, concerned to the point of obsession with her shortcomings.

From Twilight’s admittedly problematic Bella, to Game of Thrones’ ineffectual Sansa Stark [Editor's Note: Just keep reading/watching, Anna. ;) ], women who were the recipients, not the perpetrators of action began to overwhelm our fiction.  And these women, often depicted as heroes, succeeded in spite of their insecurities: after encountering a guide or a mentor,  each experienced a pivotal moment that guided her inner heroine out of the shadows and into the light. Read More »