Necromantic: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

It feels like hype for Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel about necromantic lesbians, bone citadels, rockin’ adventures, tantalizing mysteries, wicked sword fights, and many, many reanimated corpses has been building for YEARS. It was earlier this year, however, when it really started to catch my attention. Isabel Yap, who’s been championing the book since its earliest days, popped onto Twitter and blew my socks off by calling Gideon the Ninth “the closest thing to a JRPG in novel form.”

I was so enamoured by this description that I went out of my way to write an in-depth examination of how Golden Age of JRPGs (from Final Fantasy to Suikoden) influenced many of today’s best and brightest SF writers. And then I got my hands on Gideon the Ninth, and, despite mile high expectations, walked away knowing I’d read something special. Muir’s novel isn’t just the best debut of the year, it might be the year’s best novel. Period.

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Cherenkovian Horror: Thoughts on CHERNOBYL (HBO, 2019) and MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL by Adam Higginbotham

Image from Chernobyl on HBO
Chernobyl on HBO

As an older millennial, I grew up in a post-Chernobyl world. I’ve been aware of the incident for my entire life, without ever knowing the truth of it. I knew Pripyat from a few video games I’d played—its mystique as a ghost town overshadowing the reality that tens of thousands of people had their lives uprooted and never truly destroyed because of the disaster at the nearby nuclear power platn. An equal number of people have died (and continue to die) because of the accident. This happened in my life time, while I was toddling about my home, searching for crumbs and toys, but it always had the feeling of a far-off myth or something out of a storybook. Living in Canada, I had the privilege to know about it, but not know about it.

HBO’s Chernobyl was released earlier this year to rave reviews. I thought I knew about the Chernobyl incident because I was vaguely aware of how nuclear reactors operated (thanks to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011) and how government bureaucracy led to the disaster being worse than it should have been. I thought back to Call of Duty. I had no idea what I was in for when I sat down for watch Chernobyl—written by the guy who wrote Scary Movie 3 and The Hangover Part II, no less—but I walked away from the absolutely pitch perfect first episode reeling, unable to fall asleep. It was dark and bleak, angry, hopeless, terrifying.

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Generation JRPG: The Cutting Room Floor

Photo by Aidan Moher

Yesterday, my epic article about the influence of the Golden Age of Japanese RPGs (from the SNES to the PlayStation 2) went up on Kotaku, and it’s been a blast seeing so many people reach out on Twitter and message boards to tell me about their similar experiences. I spoke to several SFF writers, such as Scott Lynch, Tamsyn Muir, Peng Shepherd, and Troy L. Wiggins, about their experience growing up as gamers and how that’s influenced their popular SFF work.

The final version of “How Japanese RPGs Inspired A New Generation Of Fantasy Authors” clocked in at a weighty 5,500 words, but the original draft was over 10,000 words long before we started whipping it into shape. And, even then, there was a TON of great content from the authors I interviewed that didn’t find a home in the piece. They didn’t fit into the overall narrative, they were too much a divergence from the main path, etc. So, I wanted to use this space to pull a few of those stories forward and given them the home on the Internet they deserve.

If you haven’t already, go and give it a read, and then come back here for the juicy outtakes after the jump.

Thanks for reading!

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Out & About: Generation JRPG

Over on Kotaku (!!!, what is my life?), I’ve got a longread the explores the connection between the new wave of SFF writers and the influence of Golden Age Japanese RPGs (from the 16- and 32-bit era, like Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, Suikoden 2, etc.) I’ve been working on it for a long, long time and I’m so proud it’s finally out there for everyone to read.

An excerpt from “How Japanese RPGs Inspired A New Generation Of Fantasy Authors”:

When I think back to my childhood and teenage years, when my literary tastes were being forged in the crucible of youthful emotion and impressionism, particular scenes come to life: Sam carrying Frodo up Mt. Doom. The Reaper chasing Wil Ohmsford through the Westland. Marle hugging Crono on top of Death Peak.

Most fantasy readers won’t need a reminder of what books the first two scenes come from (Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks), and most Kotaku readers won’t miss the reference to the classic Japanese role-playing game Chrono Trigger. And for some, all three of those works are of equal importance. Today’s fantasy novelists are just as likely to have been inspired by JRPGs as they are J.R.R. Tolkien. For some authors, Celes’ performance at the Opera House is just as much of a storytelling touchstone as young Simon fleeing Pryrates beneath the Hayholt.

It was an absolute pleasure to chat with various SFF writers about the topic. When I first started conceptualizing the piece, I had this vision of me showing up on Twitter like a naked dude at a graduation—everyone staring at me funny because I was the only one writer inspired by Golden Age JRPGs. Based by the overwhelmingly positive response on Twitter, this is obviously not the case.

I had to cut A TON of content from the interviews and first draft, so check back soon for a post featuring some of my favourite out takes that didn’t make it into the final article.

Read “How Japanese RPGs Inspired A New Generation Of Fantasy Authors” on Kotaku.

While we’re at it, I also have reviews of Terry Brooks’ The Stiehl Assassin and This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone over on the Barnes and Noble SF&F blog.

Out & About: An Empire Long Ago

Photo by planetMitch aunger on Unsplash

I’ve got reviews piling up these days, and, can just point out how blessed we are to be living in such a rich, wonderful time for SFF literature? Some seriously good books coming out these days, and my most recent reviews cover two of the best fantasy novels of the year: Empire of Grass by Tad Williams and A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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Work-in-Progress Update: Fly, little bird. Fly.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash
Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

Last November, I posted about the completion of the first draft of The Rose and Honey Soul, my gothic-post apocalyptic-funguspunk-fantasy set in an eternally dark world. It was the culmination of over two years of work, and I was really proud of the draft—but also recognized that it needed a lot of work. But, I also needed some space—so, I set aside some time to break ground on my novel, The Thousand Shattered Gods. That went swimmingly, and I quickly fell in love with the world and characters I was meeting. Once I had a good foundation of work for the novel, I returned to The Rose and Honey Soul at the beginning of the new year, and started work on what turned out to be an extensive revision.

And, now, I’m done.

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Thoughts on the 2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

*gasp*

The Hugo Awards weren’t announced on a Friday afternoon, Easter Weekend, or at some other incredibly inconvenient time—I’m still reeling from this act of decency.

Oh, and the incredible short list this year.

Tor.com’s got the run down, as usual. So, head on over there (in a new tab, obvs), and then come back here for some thoughts.

Back? Okay. Let’s go.

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Mean Mages: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

One of the benefits of being a part of the vast SFF community is making great friends. One of the benefits of those great friends is the opportunity to read their books early. I consider myself fortunate to count Sarah Gailey among those friends. They’re smart, funny, dynamic, and have a range to their writing that few other authors can match. I had an opportunity to read their first novel a couple of years ago, back when it had a different title, and it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve been on the edge of my seat WAITING until it was released ever since then so I could scream at everybody I know to read it. It’s out now, called Magic for Liars, I’ve read the final version, and, y’all, it’s GOOD.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I felt my previous involvement with the novel meant it would be in poor taste for me to review it for a professional venue—but, here on my blog, I can say whatever I want. So:

GO READ MAGIC FOR LIARS.)

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We Are All Made of Light: An interview with Hugo-winner Kameron Hurley

Last week, Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade was released with much fan fare and critical acclaim. Over on Tor.com, I said, “The Light Brigade is a standout novel in Kameron Hurley’s already impressive career. It’ll get your pulse pounding, your blood boiling, and your heart aching. It’ll make you angry, scared, and, at the most unexpected moments, hopeful. The history of Military SF novels is long and storied, but Hurley’s work can stand up with the best of them.”

In the tradition of Heinlein and Haldeman, The Light Brigade is a Military SF novel that explores one soldier’s tumultuous, asynchronous experience through a war between Earth and Mars.

Here’s a little more from my review:

Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade is the latest in this line of novels to modernize Heinlein’s classic tale, and like those that have come before, it too is an important, critical look at the role of how war bends and warps modern society. It is also every bit as good as The Forever War and Old Man’s War, and has the potential to become the next great Military SF classic.

Aidan Moher, Tor.com

Among its myriad themes are explorations of war’s toll, anti-capitalism, personal motivation, xenophobia, media manipulation, and vengeance. If it sounds heady, it is. Hurley digs into these themes with a razor-sharp scalpel, connecting each of them inextricably tight to the novel’s plot and characters. To further explore these themes and the story behind the novel, I caught up with Hurley for a chat about The Light Brigade, its influences, time travel, and what the future can tell us about the present.

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