Recently, I had the chance to read two very different but equally kick ass science fiction novels by two brilliant women. Funny enough, they’re also both published by Saga Press, a relatively new imprint that has been producing some of the genre’s best novels over the past few years. So, cheers to Joe Monti and Navah Wolfe at Saga for their vision and taste.Read More »
My latest story, “Grandmother Kills Massive River Drake After It Ate Her Goat,” is now available to read for free on Curious Fictions!
That one-eyed drake swam up from the ‘glades one stormy night—big as a house, silent as a mouse. Might’ve been the same one that killed my third husband. Who knows? Was watchin’ my stories, mindin’ my own when I saw it through the window. Rose up by the riverside pen, shadow over the moon, wings drippin’ mud, scales blinkin’ star-like, teeth long as a dagger.
“Grandmother Kills Massive River Drake After It Ate Her Goat” is a 630 word flash story about a grandma who rediscovers the thrill of moon magic and embarks on a quest for vengeance after an enormous river drake eats her favourite goat.
I’ve been busy! Between the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog and Tor.com, I’ve got a handful of reviews, a retrospective, and a roundup of books for fans of my favourite new show, The Dragon Prince.
First up is 10 Books to Satisfy Fans of Netflix’s The Dragon Prince on the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog. The Dragon Prince is my favourite TV show since Avatar: The Last Airbender—so, to celebrate the release of its second season, I’ve gathered 10 books that are sure to satisfy fans while they wait for the show’s (still unannounced…) third season.
An excerpt from my round up:
The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s dragons, which Hugo-nominated author and B&N SFF Blog favorite Max Gladstone once described as “the gold standard,” are next to none. They are complex, beautiful, powerful, and melancholy, and they serve many purposes throughout Le Guin’s work, far beyond the standard “gold-hoarding monster” trope. More recently, legendary artist Charles Vess described how it took him years to get Le Guin’s dragons just right. There’s a deeply rooted sense of wisdom in all of Le Guin’s books, but it is perhaps through her dragons that this element of her writing is best embodied. Le Guin redefined what a dragon could be, and we’re still experiencing the rippling effect of her influence over the genre in series like Robin Hobb’s The Realm of the Elderlings or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire.
(If you’re unfamiliar with The Dragon Prince—boy, are you in for a treat.)Read More »
It’s no secret at this point that I’m a big Magic: The Gathering fan. I’ve been playing the game since I was a wee one in elementary school (I think my first booster pack was Ice Age), and it still holds a large chunk of my attention. (I’m working on a Selesnya Tokens deck on Arena as we speak.) I’m also a pretty big Brandon Sanderson fan. So, Sanderson’s latest novella, a Magic tie-in called Children of the Nameless, is a huge confluence of my favourites.
As a Magic fan, I loved Children of the Nameless, but the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be familiar with the game or its ongoing story AT ALL to enjoy Sanderson’s work.
An excerpt from my review:
By this point, if you’re familiar with Magic or Brandon Sanderson’s fiction, it’s probably safe to say that you enjoy certain elements of fantasy: lots of magic, big set pieces, huge casts of characters, and epic stories. Children of the Nameless is a great coming together of all the things that make Magic, epic fantasy, and Brandon Sanderson’s fiction so great—all in a concise, energetic, and fun package that will appeal to all sorts of readers.
Let’s get this out of the way: Children of the Nameless is a terrific gothic fantasy story regardless of your familiarity with Magic. In fact, for the first third of the book, you wouldn’t even know it was set in a universe that Sanderson didn’t create himself, and even by the end the connections to the game’s ongoing storyline are light and more portentous than anything. Anybody can read and enjoy Children of the Nameless.
Once you’re done with that, stick around on Tor.com to check out my long, sprawling interview with the familiar faces behind the latest Magic: The Gathering fiction, including Cassandra Khaw, Kate Elliott, and Martha Wells.
“The Rose and Honey Soul” is done!
A little over two-and-a-half years ago, I started work on a short story inspired by Dark Souls. It was a dark, baroque, and dense story about a an Asher adrift in a world drenched in eternal dark following her partner and lover’s disappearance. I wrote about 5,000 words, and loved the world and characters, but came to the realization that something wasn’t quite right.
I set it aside, as I often do with projects that aren’t working, and moved onto a few other things (like “On the Phone with Goblins,” my novelette about two geriatric wizards solving crime from their retirement hone, which is quite unlike “The Rose and Honey Soul,” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” which is short, bright, and hopeful.) Fast forward to June of this year when I opened up my work on “The Rose and Honey Soul” and realized very quickly what was wrong with the story as I’d been telling it: it wasn’t a short story.
So, I opened Scrivener, bounced around between outlining it as a novella and a novel (turns out, in the end, it fell right smack in the middle, natch), and quickly filled out all the holes and came out with a multi-chapter outline that not only seemed to work, but excited me in a way that the original draft hadn’t.
So, I got working.Read More »
The latest instalment of my Art of SFF column on Tor.com is a little different this time around. Instead of focusing on the overall career and work of one of SFF’s wonderful artists, I caught up with Charles Vess, who’s a legend of the field, to chat about Ursula K. Le Guin, her renowned Earthsea stories, and his work as artist and collaborator on Saga Press’s 2018 collection, The Books of Earthsea.
Le Guin had enjoyed previous collaborations with theatre groups and musical artists, but told Vess that every artist she’d worked with previously would say, “Yes! I’d love to collaborate,” and then that was the last she’d hear from them until the book was finished and printed. “So, I don’t think she believed me when I said I wanted to collaborate. But, after four years and lord knows how many emails, she sent me a copy of her latest book, her essay book, and her dedication to me was ‘To Charles, the best collaborator ever.’”
There was perhaps a bittersweet note to Vess’s laugh.
“I felt very gratified. It was a long, and very intimidating project, but it’s the best kind of project to have, because it will bring out the best in you.”
One of the book’s double-page illustrations shows Tenar, Ged, and Tehanu after they have just caught a goat that escaped its pen and fled into a garden. “It’s a very quiet drawing.” Le Guin loved it. “Every once in a while, she’d go, ‘More goats, Charles. Put more goats in there.’”
“So, I did!” he laughed.
Charles was absolutely wonderful to speak with. He’s warm and genial, and a natural storyteller. There’s something wonderful about speaking with an artist who’s a legend in their own field, and hearing the love, passion, and reverence they have for another master. It’s clear that Vess’ love to Earthsea and the rest of Le Guin’s work runs deep and long.
From a personal perspective, this interview was a long time coming, and fought through several technical difficulties, so it’s particularly vindicating to come out the other end with what I consider some of my finest work.
My genre fiction bread and butter is definitely epic fantasy. So, naturally, my two latest reviews, both on the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, are near-future thrillers that dig deep into current socio-political issues through their action-packed plots.
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Street Freaks is Terry Brooks like you’ve never read him before, but it also manages to strike a fine balance between the bold and the familiar. If you’ve finished Red Rising and The Darkest Minds, and are looking for more, this one will satisfy. It’s fun, progressive, relentlessly paced, and full-to-the-brim with interesting people. Unlike epic fantasy in the ’70s, science fiction doesn’t need saving exactly, but Street Freaks shows that Brooks has it, no matter the genre.
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
Red Moon is another wonderful Kim Stanley Robinson novel, and all that implies. If it lacks the scope of some of his earlier works, it more than makes up for it with the ambitiousness of its themes, its breakneck pace, and its thoughtful examination of the way societies evolve organically during times of upheaval.
If Andy Weir’s Artemis showed us the perils of surviving on the moon. Red Moon takes it one step beyond, showing us the uncertainly that comes from powerful competing interests vying for control of a new resource—even one that’s been staring us in the face for at least as long as we’ve been around to look up at the sky, and wonder.
I’m pleased to say that my story, “The Penelope Qingdom,” is now available in audio format at Cast of Wonders! The episode is hosted by Katherine Inskip, and narrated by the wonderful Andrew K. Hoe. The entire text of the story is also available on Cast of Wonders.
For fans of Stranger Things, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie,” “The Penelope Qingdom” is a love letter to growing up, ’80s Saturday morning cartoons, Dungeons & Dragons, and falling in love for the first time.
It’s always a thrill to hear one of your stories come to life in audio, and I’m beyond pleased that “The Penelope Qingdom” is part of Cast of Wonders’ library. They produce beautiful work, and I hope this publication will open doors to a whole new audience for one of my personal favourite stories I’ve written. And, can I just say how much I love the banner image they chose for the story? You’ll understand once you’ve listened.
“The Penelope Qingdom” was first published in 2016 by Mothership Zeta and can also be read on Curious Fictions.
Yesterday on on Tor.com, I published a long-in-the-making article that has me internally (and externally) screaming with delight. It’s the story of my introduction to fantasy through Magic: The Gathering, an immensely popular trading card game that has endured for 25 years. Recently, the game’s creator, Wizards of the Coast, has made an effort to revamp the game’s fiction (delivered via online short stories and, soon, novels) by hiring some legitimately great SFF authors. I mean, look at this list: Cassandra Khaw, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott. That’s some serious clout.
So, I caught up with the authors, and creative director Nic Kelman, to discuss the past, present, and future of Magic’s storytelling, which encompasses one of the largest and most intricate fantasy worlds ever created.
Here’s an excerpt:
If someone asked me how I got into fantasy, I’d bring up the summer of ’96. I was 12 years old and had just graduated elementary school. Enjoying one of the longest summers of my life. One day stands out vividly above the rest. It was hot, sunny—brilliant and full of possibility, in the way that only summer vacation can be. I was with my dad, driving to southern Vancouver Island so that he could meet with someone who worked for his online scriptwriting workshop. The drive was about an hour, but it felt shorter. I wasn’t looking out the window, or chatting with my dad; instead, my nose was buried in my mom’s battered copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I was in the car with my dad, but I was also in Middle-earth alongside Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarfs. This might not seem like a remarkable introduction to fantasy, but it was for me. I grew up treating fantasy with disdain—dismissing it for being full of unicorns, princesses, rainbows, and the sort. (Who’d’ve thought that 20 years later I’d be looking for exactly those things in the books I read?) Instead, I was a remarkably loyal science fiction fan. However, Tolkien’s novel of loyalty and adventure, danger, magic, and friendship showed me the error of my thinking, and convinced me that, hey, fantasy is cool. I became a voracious fantasy reader after that—an obsession I still live with today.
However, my roots as a fantasy fan go back farther than that—which I’m only realizing as I write this article.
Rewind a couple of years to 1994. Spearheaded by Ms. Lukyn, the fourth grade teacher, a new game was spreading like wildfire in my elementary school. Magic: The Gathering was a Trading Card Game (TCG) that pitted two Planeswalkers against each other. The players took on the role of these wizards and faced off in combat by casting fireballs, drinking healing salves, and summing great beasts like Shivan Dragons or Sengir Vampires. It was easy to learn, cheap to start playing (or, the teacher had spare decks), and it ignited youthful imaginations. How else on the school grounds could you step into the robes of a wizard?
You can read the whole thing—all 4,000 words of it—on Tor.com. Whether you’re a existing fan of Magic: The Gathering, a lapsed fan, or just love fantasy fiction, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Huzzah! My latest short story, “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” is now available FOR FREE on the Robot Dinosaurs! website.
“The Dinosaur Graveyard” is a long flash story (short short story?) about a robotics engineer spending a long night repairing her daughter’s favourite toy. It’s about dinosaurs (duh) and robot—but it’s also about parenting and coming of age, loneliness, kindness, and sharing passion.
Working on this story with editor Merc Rustad and artist James Kurella has been an absolute delight—and I’m stoked for the upcoming Kickstarter and physical release of the anthology.
You can find out more about the origins of “The Dinosaur Graveyard” here.