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Writing in Ink
to Samarkand

You can hear a distant thunder of hoofbeats, steadily growing louder as it approaches. It is a stratum of fantasy that looks beyond the boundary.

You can hear a distant thunder of hoofbeats, steadily growing louder as it approaches. It is a stratum of secondary world fantasy that looks beyond the boundary, the Great Wall of Europe. Secondary world fantasy that is inspired by Byzantium and the Silk Road, all the way to the western borders of China. Characters, landscapes, cultural forms derived from the Abbasid Caliphate, the Taklamakan Desert, and the Empires of Southeast Asia much more than Lancashire.

Thanks to the rising popularity of fantasy fiction, riding, in part, on the wave of Game of Thrones‘ massive success, many of science fiction and fantasy’s old paradigms and forms of have gotten a new look by virtue of new and diverse styles and varieties of stories, new and formerly inhibited voices (primarily women, genderqueer, and minorities), and new or formerly under-utilized wellsprings of inspiration. Elizabeth Bear, one of the many authors at the center of this paradigm shift, calls this “Rainbow SF.” As Science fiction readies its generation ship to move beyond the white-heteronormative-males-conquer-the-galaxy pastiche, popular fantasy is beginning to look beyond the faux-medieval western European that remained so popular throughout the genre’s formative decades. And this doesn’t even include the rise of World SF, as fiction from markets and voices beyond North America and England begin to be heard in the field.

I call such books “Silk Road Fantasy.” Read More »

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Since the passing of Josh Kirby in 2001, Pratchett’s series has gone through a long search for a new artist that could match the verve and energy of the legendary artist’s interpretation of Pratchett’s beloved world. At long last, it looks like we’ve found the answer: French artist Marc Simonetti. From Gone with the Wind, to Abbey Road, to The Wizard of Oz, Simonetti’s artwork features the same level of tribute and sophisticated satire that makes Pratchett’s work such a joy. If there’s ever been so perfect a pairing of author and artist, I’m unaware.

Above is just a small part of Simonetti’s Discworld art collection, and many more paintings, which are used for the UK covers, are ava on Simonetti’s website. Whether you’re familiar with Discworld or not, Simonetti’s art is an achievement in itself, and well worth spending some time with.

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Unexpectedly, I’ll be attending LonCon3, this year’s WorldCon, hosted in London, England. The convention administrators were foolish kind enough to schedule me on some panels during the convention, and so my schedule for the weekend is posted below. If you’re at LonCon3 (and it seems that half of the SFF fans in the world will be there), I hope you’re able to come by for the panels. They’re all very interesting, and my panel-mates include some humblingly intelligent and amazing people. (And some guy named Justin Landon…)

Outside of these panels, I’ll be around the convention floor (well, wherever they allow you to drink beer, at any rate.) So, if you see me, come say “Hi!”

Note: The listed panelists are preliminary and subject to change. Read More »

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One of the most unique aspects of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series is its unerring dedication to following the Ohmsford and Leah family lines as each new generation finds trouble for themselves in the Four Lands (and beyond, in some cases.) Since I first discovered Brooks, the Ohmsfords and the Leahs have held a special place in my heart, and the hearts of many fantasy readers like me. So, it makes perfect sense that Orbit Books, Brooks’ UK publisher, would create such a loving family tree to illustrate the labyrinthine connections between the two families.

You find a high resolution (like, really high resolution) version of the family tree on Orbit’s Facebook page, where you can also enter to win a gorgeous print by voting for your favourite Shannara generation. Fun stuff, great series.

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I’ve ragged on a lot of covers with sultry-looking dudes in LARPing gear, but there’s something about these character-centric Robin Hobb covers that works for me. While not quite the homerun that the new covers for Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy are, the aging of Fitz, from young adult to weathered, handsome dude is a great touch for past fans of the series. Plus Fitz has an axe, so… yay.

Incidentally, young Fitz is the perfect draw for a young adult audience, who will be attracted by the bright colours and familiar design conventions. I discovered and loved Hobb’s work as a teenager, and I can see these new covers opening a lot of doors for a new generation of readers.

I could have done without the floating animal head ghosts, though. (JK, Nighteyes, I still love you.)