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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 »

Chew Manga by Jessica Dinh

Chew Manga by Jessica Dinh

For the past year or so, Terry Brooks has been teasing his fans with hints of a conclusion to his long-running Shannara series. Since some of its earliest volumes, the Shannara series has explored the results of growing science in a world once dominated by magic. Brooks has mentioned several times now that within the next several years he will be writing a trilogy that will tie-up this ongoing tug o’ war, calling the trilogy and “end” for Shannara. But, would Brooks, and his publishers, really be willing to step away from the long-standing (and reliable revenue generating) series? The answer, it appears, is no.

The the most recent instalment of “Ask Terry,” a monthly feature on Brooks’ website where the author answer fan questions, Gina Miller asked, “When I finished Measure of the Magic, it felt incomplete. We left everyone divided and leaderless, and it was an incomplete transition to the Shannara world. Will there be a bridge to make the transition complete?”

To which Brooks replied:

Yes, there will be a finish to the set. Just not for awhile. Probably not for as along as five years. I intend to write the end of the Shannara series first, then go back to the pre-history. Obviously, if I intend to keep my promise to all of you, I have to write from Measure up to the First Council of Druids. Let’s hope I live that long.

Colour me unsurprised (and a happy Shannara fan). While Shannara might receive a trilogy that concludes the war between science and magic, there are many more stories to tell in the world, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Brooks turning to more standalone novels, similar to his upcoming novel, The High Druid’s Blade, set at various points along Shannara‘s lengthy timeline.

In addition to these upcoming novels, Brooks has also said that he has a new book (or series) planned that is entirely unrelated to his previous works.

God's War by Kameron Hurley

Buy God’s War by Kameron Hurley: book/eBook

Yesterday, Angry Robot Books announced the Worldbreaker Saga, a new fantasy/science fiction trilogy from Kameron Hurley (remember her?). “The Mirror Empire will be published worldwide in September this year, with the sequel to follow a year later,” explains Angry Robot.

Surprising to note, The Mirror Empire is set to release this September, a very quick turnaround in the world of traditional publishing, and sure to set some readers to shuffling around their fall reading list. It’s instantly become one of my most anticipated novels of 2014.

Hurley’s best known for her Bel Dame Apocrypha, a slim trilogy (by genre standards) about the bounty hunter Nyx, which Dan Hartland of Strange Horizons described as, “like a live grenade, lobbed with abandon and not a little mischief.” So, I was rightfully surprised when she described The Mirror Empire to me. “This is Game of Thrones meets Fringe,” she said. “Across three respectable doorstoppers.”

Along with the announcement, we also have an early synopsis:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of collapse. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler struggles to unite a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayals, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, only one world will rise – and many will perish.

Art by Jung Park

Art by Jung Park

I caught up with Hurley to chat about the new deal an what to expect of her new trilogy. “his book has been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s one of those projects that brews at the back of your brain for nearly twenty years, waiting for you to achieve the skill you need to actually pull it off.”

Hurley’s first trilogy has been a huge critical success (most recently, God’s War was nominated for a BSFA), but she wasn’t ready to return to that world for novel-length material, so began this new project.

“After I finished my God’s War trilogy, I needed a break from writing a world mired in apocalyptic war… so of course I sat down and wrote The Mirror Empire, which is about a world at the brink of apocalyptic war with multiple worlds. Because one world at war just isn’t, you know, enough for me. It’s the most intricate and complex book I’ve ever written, and I had a lot of help along the way, in particular from my agent, Hannah Bowman, who has a very keen sense for how to thread together multiple plot lines over multiple worlds and… well… a lot of multiple things, as folks will note pretty early on.”

“I’m pretty jazzed to see what folks think of it.”