Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amazing Stories Trademark Bought

Steve Davidson (Crotchety Old Fan) has acquired the trademark to Amazing Stories.  He is looking at relaunching the magazine online with containing new and reprint stories with a strong social networking component.  You can read his press release here.  There are further updates here and here.  The website for the magazine is up and is  There’s not much there yet, but check back frequently.  I used to pick up Amazing Stories regularly and am thrilled it will be coming back.  Thanks, Steve, and best of luck. 

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can’t say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn’t make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don’t like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I’ll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

My favorite panel was the one Saturday afternoon devoted to Phineas and Ferb.  Yes, yes it was.  It was the most fun I’ve had at a panel in years.  I hadn’t had a chance to check the schedule in detail before I left, so it was only coincidence when I put on my Perry the Platypus T-shirt that morning.  Really.

I met Phillipa Ballantine (see my review of Geist) and Tee Morris.  They were a lot of fun.  I hope the convention brings them back.  In addition to being two of the nicest people, they were also funny, high energy, and more approachable than many professionals I’ve encountered.

Other good panels include remembrances of the Shuttle, discussions of near space exploration (more than I was able to attend), and a panel on publishing scams that could have been twice as long and still not exhausted the subject.

I got a chance to visit a little with Lou Anders, editor of Pyr books.

There were plenty of room parties, although I found it offensive that the hotel posted a uniformed security guard in the hall near where the parties were being held.

Finally, one of the things I like most about Fencon is there is an entire track of programming devoted to music.  This, I’ve discovered, is a great way to keep me financially solvent  out of the dealer’s room occupied when there’s not a panel or reading I want to attend.  I just read and listen to the music.

I had a good time and came back much more relaxed than when I went.  (I really, really, really needed the break)

Phineas and Ferb Panel

Toastmaster Brad Denton signs for a fan.
Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine
Lou Antonelli channels Harlan Ellison by writing in public.

Attendees came from the North, South, East, and West

Publishing scams panel

Who’s Who in the pictures, if not identified in the captions:

1.  l. to r. :  Gloria Oliver, Shanna Swendson, Perry the Platypus, Cathy Clamp, Todd Caldwell, Rhonda Eudaly
2.  Brad Denton and Steven Silver
5.  unidentified
6.  L. to r.:  A. Lee Martinez, Rachel Caine, Tee Morris, Cathy Clamp, Selina Rosen, Amy Sisson
7.  unidentified

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

I’ve not posted much lately, certainly not as much as I’d like.  Last week was not one of the best I’ve ever had, which contributed.  The less said about that, the better.  I’ll just say that my reading and blogging rate decreased noticeably for a few days.
Anyway, I’ve got a few more novels I’m committed to review.  I’ve started the sequel to Wolfsangel.  I hope to have that posted within the next week to ten days.  I have a deadline on a personal writing project at the end of the week, so that will slow down the reading and blogging somewhat.

I spent the weekend at Fencon and should have a report on that up tomorrow.  Then there’s another Conan post.  After that, more novel reviews, with reviews of shorter pieces and maybe some opinions mixed in. 

And as soon as I get my hands on the new Jasper Kent novel (volume 3 of the Danilov Quintet), that will move to the top of the reading stack.

Darkness Falling, A Review of Peter Crowther’s Latest Novel

Darkness Falling
Peter Crowther
Angry Robot Books
US/Canada 27 Sep 2011
400 pp trade paperback $12.99 US/ $14.99 Canada
UK 6 Oct 2011
464 pp B-format paperback    L7.99
ebook 27 Sep 2011 L4.99/$5.99

As and editor and publisher, Peter Crowther has few peers.  His accomplishments in these fields have overshadowed his work as a writer.  He tends to write primarily in the horror genre, and this latest novel is no exception.

The publisher classifies it as science fiction on the book’s webpage, and I have no argument with that designation.  However, I’ve chosen to review it here rather than on Futures Past and Present, my science fiction blog, because as a scientist I’m a little skeptical about some of the things that happen.  Since Angry Robot classified Roil as a fantasy and I reviewed it as science fiction (which I maintain it is), I figure this just evens things out.

With Halloween approaching, this book fits the season well.

This is basically a zombie novel with a dash of vampiric photo-phobia thrown in.  There are echoes of the original Night of the Living Dead as well as allusions and references to other classic horror films, not the least of which is Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Most of the population disappears in a Rapture-like event, a flash of bright light in the middle of the night.  Only a few people are left.  That’s about as far as the similarities to the Left Behind books goes.  Twenty-four hours later, there’s a second flash of light.  The bodies of the people who disappeared are back.  Only they’ve changed.  And they’re not friendly.

I have to admit my initial impression of this book wasn’t exactly positive.  Two of the characters turned me off completely.  The first was Ronnie, whose marriage is in trouble.  He’s on a plane with his wife, and he’s ogling every female of legal age in sight.  He doesn’t disappear, but his wife does.  Also on the plane with him are a little girl named Angel, who happens to be clairvoyant, and the navigator, who doesn’t really know how to land the plane.  It’s only when Ronnie begins to be a father figure that he becomes a likeable character.

The other character, Virgil, is a serial killer.  What I didn’t care for was the detail into his past we were given, specifically the sexual abuse he experienced from his mother.  He never becomes a likeable character, but then he’s not supposed to be.  He just suffered from too much information in the early chapters.

After a few chapters, though, I found myself being hooked.  With the exception of Virgil, all of the other characters are appealing, eventually if not immediately.  The fact that they don’t all survive adds to the suspense.  Not all of the characters are together in the beginning.  By the end all the viewpoint characters have joined up and have formed a plan, which will be implemented in the next book.  Crowther is a talented writer, and the prose flowed.  The market is somewhat saturated with zombies right  now.  This one is the cream of the crop.

Being a type of zombie novel, there’s plenty of gore in places.  While that might turn some readers off, I didn’t find it excessive.  There’s enough mystery about what happened to keep me reading, even if I’m not entirely sure I buy everything in Crowther’s scenario from a scientific standpoint. 

There are two more volumes planned in this series, with release dates in the fall of 2012 and 2013.  I’ll be looking for them.

Charles Gramlich at Home of Heroics

I was hoping to post a review tonight of the novel I’m currently reading.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Tomorrow don’t look promisin’ neither. 

Instead, please allow me to point you to Charles Gramlich’s post over at Home of Heroics.  It’s the first of two parts, discussing the various subgenres of fantasy.  Featured are sword and sorcery and sword and planet, two of my favorite categories.  If you haven’t read the post (and I know some of you have because you’ve commented), check it out.  I found the names of a couple of new authors I need to track down.

New Review Posted at Futures Past and Present

I’ve posted a review of Roil by Trent Jamieson at Futures Past and Present.  Some of you might be interested in this one.  It’s one of those far future settings that reads like fantasy.  It’s closer to science fiction than fantasy in my mind, so I decided to post it there but wanted to make you aware of it in case you like this sort of book.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Barbarism at Home of Heroics

I’m trying to finish a novel I’ve committed to review (one down, four to go), so I thought I’d point you to an essay that went up a few minutes ago over to Home of Heorics:  ” ‘Barbarian’ – Good or Bad?” by Werner A. Lind.  It’s a well thought-out examination of barbarism contrasted with civilization.  If you’re a fan of Robert E. Howard, you’ll want to read it.

As soon as I get this review done (which I will probably post at Futures Past and Present since it’s more science fiction than fantasy but will include a link here), I’ll look at a couple of items of short fiction.  In the meantime, check out what Werner has to say.

9-11: Never Forget

I had the honor and privilege of baptizing my son this morning.  Given what baptism symbolizes, I couldn’t think of a better day of the year on which to do it.  Others have written more eloquently about today’s anniversary than I ever could.  Read Sarah Hoyt’s post for well said words.  Instead of writing something, I decided to post some photos of the flag tribute here in town.

Ghosts, Conspiracies, and a Smoking Hot Deacon

Philippa Ballantine
Ace, 294 p., $7.99

That should probably be “deaconess” in the title of this post, but since both male and female holders of that office go by the title of “deacon” in Geist, I’ll stick with Ms. Ballantine’s convention.  Regardless of details of semantics, this was a thoroughly enjoyable novel.  It’s not the author’s first, but it was the first one of hers I’ve read.  It won’t be the last. 

The geists of the title are beings from the Otherside, sort a spirit world, and “geist” is something of a catchall term that could encompass a number of different entities.  They are usually pretty destructive.  They can be a form of ghost or some other malignant being.

The novel probably wouldn’t be considered heroic fantasy in the strictest sense, but there were plenty of heroics.  The setup is this, at least as I understand it.  I may have a couple of the details wrong.  There were no major infodumps; background was filled in as you went along, often from context.  It takes place on continent that had been settled some generations before, although how long ago was a little unclear.  The Deacons long ago cast off all their religious beliefs and are quiet secular in their behavior, as much as they may still function as a religious order at times.  The book opens with Sorcha putting out her cigar on the side of a building.  Anyway, the Deacons are the ones who protect the citizenry against possessions and other attacks from the Otherside.

The current Emperor, or at least his line, hasn’t held the throne long.  Raed Rossin, the son of the former Emperor, is still around and is known by the title of The Young Pretender.  He still has some support, but it’s fading.  When the book opens, he’s surviving as a pirate and is a bit down on his luck.  He also suffers from a curse.  If he spends much time on dry land, he transforms into a Rossin, which is a pretty nasty geist.

The gorgeous woman on the cover is Deacon Sorcha Faris.  Deacons fall into one of two categories, Actives and Sensitives.  Sorcha is an Active, which means she does the fighting.  Sensitives can see Otherside activity as well as know what living creatures are in a given area.  Sensitives and Actives in the field are always paired.  Sorcha is somewhere in her thirties, the most powerful (and feared and beautiful) of the Actives, and has had more partners than most Deacons.  She’s married to her current partner, and the marriage is in trouble. 

When her husband is seriously wounded in an attack in the first chapter, she’s given a new partner, Merrick Chambers.  Sorcha isn’t happy about this.  Merrick has just passed his final test and been made a Deacon.  Although she doesn’t realize it, Merrick has met her before.  When he was a child, he watched Sorcha kill his father.

The pair are given an assignment to investigate trouble at an isolated Priory.  That’s when things really begin to go to the Otherside in a handbasket.  Along the way, they have to be rescued by Raed.  Plenty of sparks ensue, some from conflicting loyalties, some romantic.

There’s plenty of combat and fighting, and while most of it is magical in nature, there’s still a good deal of sword play.  The viewpoints alternate between Sorcha, Merrick, and Raed.  I found this to be very effective, in that when the viewpoint characters had conflicts among themselves, the reader gets to see both sides in detail.  The book is told from their perspectives, and since very little is as it appears to them, there are a good number of surprises.

There are also some unanswered questions that I expect will be resolved in the following books.  The author’s website says there will be at least four.  The second, Spectyr (A Book of the Order), recently hit the shelves.  One of the questions is about the events that led to Raed’s father losing his throne.  Not a lot of details were given in the book.  Also, the Deacons in the book came across the ocean from another continent a few years prior to the book’s opening to clean things up.  The native Deacons had let things get out of hand.  This ties in some way to Raed’s father.

This was an entertaining fantasy adventure/romance.  I’ve not been impressed with this type of blend much in the past.  The ones I’ve read have tended to interject the romance pretty early in the story, and the characters started acting in ways that should have gotten them killed.  That wasn’t the case in this book.  The threat and the conspiracy were well established before the romance really ramped up.  Ms. Ballantine managed to balance the adventure and the romance well.  While I thought the ending wrapped some things up a little too neatly, there are more books in which to address some of the loose ends.

Give this one a try.