Monthly Archives: August 2013

The End of Summer, or the Long and the Short of it

Things have been hectic this week as classes start on Monday, and I’m trying to get everything organized I need to do.  On top of that, we’ve been a one car family for the last 10 days.  My wife works outside the city limits, by the way.  On the other side of town.

Anyway, I’m not sure how much I’ll get posted in the next couple of weeks. I’m still planning to go to Worldcon. I don’t have any classes on Friday, and my department head doesn’t object to my leaving after my 8:00 a.m. on Thursday. I usually don’t get much reading done at a con, and I’m sure that will be even more true about Worldcon. Add to that my column at Amazing Stories needs to be ready to go before I leave, and I’m going to be busy. (That’s the column that will go live on Labor Day, not next Monday. I still have to do that one as well.)

The next few novels here are going to be (in no particular order at this point) Duma Key by Stephen King, Trial and Glory by Joshua Simon, Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion, Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson, Prince Thief by David Tallerman, and The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich, Seven Forges by James A. Moore, The God Tattoo by Tom Lloyd (short stories rather than a novel), plus Winter be my Shield by Jo Spurrier (for a review I owe the Gemmell Awards). I’ve been dipping into Duma Key for about a month in between other reading and will probably finish it first. After that it’s a tossup.

I’ve also got a few titles I want to slip into Futures Past and Present and Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams. In addition, I’d really like to get back to reading more short fiction. I’ve not read much in the last six months.  I tend to do better in a number of areas if I’m reading short fiction regularly.  Not sure why; maybe the mental stimulation helps with productivity and general mental well-being or something.

So that’s how things stand at the moment. Not a lot happening here on the blogs since the launch, and not a lot likely to in the next couple of weeks. But that will change.

I’d like to thank everyone who has commented or sent me emails supporting the new site. While it’s still very much a work in progress and a learning experience, it’s good to know I’m doing something right.

Opening Salvo 2.0

Hello. Welcome to the new home of Adventures Fantastic. If you’re reading this shortly after it was posted (as opposed to stumbling upon it some time later), then you’re aware of the problems I ran into with Google deciding the old blog was spam. As a result, I’ve decided to change platforms and work from a space that is mine rather than someone else’s. I may still run into problems with Google, but at least I control the site completely rather than piggy-backing on some other platform.

So, what to expect: Rather than run two blogs, I’m going to run four. Crazy, I know, especially if you noticed how much more frequently I posted at Adventures Fantastic than I did at Futures Past and Present. Those two blogs will still be in existence here at the new site. The two I’m adding are Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams (detective and noir fiction) and Dispatches From the Lone Star Front (Texas and Southwest history). The former is completely new, while the latter is something I started at the Home of Heroics blog a couple of years ago. (Links to all of them are on the menu bar at the top of the page, along with info about me and the blog.)

Neither seemed to fit well into Adventures Fantastic, but there wasn’t any other place to put the posts dealing with noir or history. Fantasy, especially sword and sorcery, historic adventure, and things related to pulp will still be posted to Adventures Fantastic, along with general news and updates. I’ve posted a brief introduction at each of the new blogs, giving more detail about the themes and titles along with what to expect.

While all the main components are in place, it’s still a work in progress. I’m getting some things figured out, but it will probably be a while before I’m completely satisfied with everything.

I plan on adding a page to at least the fiction blogs (although I’m not sure about Dispatches) that will contain links to my own works.  I’m starting to learn how to publish things myself, although I haven’t gotten very far.  With classes about to start and Worldcon less than two weeks away, I’m not sure I”ll have time to have that ready.  I didn’t want to rush into that aspect of things, nor did I want to delay things while I got up the learning curve.

Anyway, welcome aboard. I’m glad you’re here, whether you followed me over from the other platform or have joined since the move.

World Fantasy Nominations Announced

The nominees for this year’s World Fantasy Awards were announced this evening.  The winners will be announced at this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, UK, on October 31 – November 3.  Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees.

They are as follows:

Life Achievement:

  • Susan Cooper
  • Tanith Lee


  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Crandolin, Anna Tambour (Chômu)
  • Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson (Grove; Corvus)


  • “Hand of Glory”, Laird Barron (The Book of Cthulhu II)
  • “Let Maps to Others”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean Summer ’12)
  •  The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon)
  • “The Skull”, Lucius Shepard (The Dragon Griaule)
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls)

Short Story:

  • “The Telling”, Gregory Norman Bossert (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 11/29/12)
  • “A Natural History of Autumn”, Jeffrey Ford (F&SF 7-8/12)
  • “The Castle That Jack Built”, Emily Gilman (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/26/12)
  • “Breaking the Frame”, Kat Howard (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Swift, Brutal Retaliation”, Meghan McCarron ( 1/4/12)


  • Epic: Legends of Fantasy, John Joseph Adams, ed. (Tachyon)
  • Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N. Brown, eds. (Small Beer)
  • Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, Jonathan Oliver, ed. (Solaris)
  • Postscripts #28/#29: Exotic Gothic 4, Danel Olson, ed. (PS Publishing)
  • Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Random House)


  • At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Kij Johnson (Small Beer)
  • Where Furnaces Burn, Joel Lane (PS Publishing)
  • The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth and Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
  • Remember Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman (ChiZine)
  • Jagannath, Karin Tidbeck (Cheeky Frawg)


  • Vincent Chong
  • Didier Graffet & Dave Senior
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • J.K. Potter
  • Chris Roberts

Special Award Professional:

  • Peter Crowther & Nicky Crowther for PS Publishing
  • Lucia Graves for the translation of The Prisoner of Heaven (Weidenfeld & Nicholson; Harper) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Adam Mills, Ann VanderMeer, & Jeff VanderMeer for Weird Fiction Review
  • Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi for ChiZine Publications
  • William K. Schafer for Subterranean Press

Special Award Non-Professional:

  • Scott H. Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • L. Timmel Duchamp for Aqueduct Press
  • S.T. Joshi for Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, Volumes 1 & 2 (PS Publishing)
  • Charles A. Tan for Bibliophile Stalker blog
  • Jerad Walters for Centipede Press
  • Joseph Wrzos for Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration (Centipede Press)

Morlock in Love

Wrath-Bearing Tree
James Enge
Pyr Books
Trade paperback, 320 pp., $18.00
ebook  $11.99 Kindle Nook

Across the Narrow Sea, in the land of Kaen, something is killing the gods.  In order to determine if this is a potential threat to the Wardlands, the Graith of Guardians sends Morlock Ambrosius and Aloe Oaij to investigate.

Morlock is secretly in love with Aloe.  Aloe isn’t in love with him.  At least not yet.  In his afterward, Enge describes this book as a love story with sword and sorcery interruptions.  To a point, that’s true.  But if you take the sword and sorcery out, the love story is pretty thin.  Magic is so much a part of Morlock that you can’t tell much of a story about him if there’s no magic involved.

This was a strange novel in some ways.  Not the love story portion.  Enge handles that very well, starting with the misunderstandings between Aloe and Morlock to her growing admiration of, and ultimately love for, Morlock.  I realize that last sentence sounds like this is just Jane Austin with fantasy trappings.  In the hands of other, lesser writers, that’s what you would get.  Not so here.

At times Wrath-Bearing Tree is a very weird book.  As Morlock and Aloe visit the cities of Kaen, it’s almost like reading some of the “true accounts” of travelers in the early days of the Age of Exploration.  Strange, bizarre, and completely unlike anything you’re familiar with.  For instance, and this isn’t the weirdest example, there’s a mountain on which the inhabitants either herd goats or sheep, but never both.  The reason is the religious significance of what an individual herds.  Once a year the two religions have a major battle (which of course Morlock and Aloe get caught in), but the goats and sheep used in those battles are anything but cute livestock.  And I’m not even sure how to describe the The Purple Patriarchy.

Because of this, much of the book reminded me of Jack Vance with doses of Clark Ashton Smith here and there.  The unusual societies were one of the highlights of the book for me.  Enge has some fun along the way.  During the Purple Patriarchy chapter, Aloe and Morlock have run afoul of the local traditions and need to escape.  They do so with the aid of a group of adventures trying to put together a quest, D&D style.

Eventually Morlock and Aloe encounter Morlock’s father Merlin.  Morlock has never met his father, so it’s an emotional reunion.  Merlin as Enge depicts him is an interesting character, although not an admirable one.  I would like to have seen more of him.

The main portion of the book, in which Aloe begins to fall in love with Morlock is told entirely from her point of view.  The reader already knows how he feels about her.  It’s interesting to watch her misunderstandings about him change as she gets to know him better.  One word of warning.  The sex scenes are extremely graphic, so if you are offended by that sort of thing or it’s not your cup of tea, you may want to keep that in mind. 

The subtitle of Wrath-Bearing Tree is A Tournament of Shadows, Book 2.  There are some unresolved issues in the larger story arc, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Enge resolves them.  I’d also like to thank Pyr Books for sending me the review copy. 

Enge’s work is unlike anything else out there that I’ve come across.  To some extent, it may be an acquired taste, because he’s not a paint-by-numbers kind of writer.  His work is original, imaginative, and one of a kind.

Return to the Shifted World

Kindred and Wings
Philippa Ballantine
Pyr Books
Paperback 340 pp., $18.00
ebook $11.99  Kindle  B&N

If you read Philippa Ballantine’s Hunter and Fox last year (reviewed here), then you will be glad to know that the sequel hits the shelves on August 6, which is tomorrow as I’m writing this.  The good folks at Pyr books were kind enough to send me a review copy, for which I would like to thank them.

I enjoyed the novel, but I liked the sequel even more.  Kindred and Wings takes up where Hunter and Fox left off. Talyn is still seeking the Caisah’s death, but she’s going to discover there are other things that should be a higher priority.  Finn the Fox, aided by the dragon Wahirangi, continues his quest to find his brother.  Meanwhile, Talyn’s brother Byre will discover that dealing with the Kindred is not without cost. And hanging over everything is the growing menace of White Void.

There are a number of viewpoint characters in Kindred and Wings.  Ballantine alternates between them, juggling story lines in a way that makes the action flow.  I’ve not read her more recent novels in her other series (not because I’m not interested but because I have to sleep sometime), so I can’t make a complete comparison, but I think this is some of her best writing.  Each of the viewpoint characters, and there more than just the three I mentioned above, are well defined.  We see each of them at their worst and their best.  Their motives and agendas sometimes come into conflict, and it’s here that some of the strongest character development occurs.  While I didn’t like all the viewpoint characters, I understood them, and it’s because they were so well written that I didn’t like one or two of them.  None of them were stock characters.

There are some great action scenes, including several battles, and all are handled well.  But ultimately this book boils down to personal conflict, and it’s at this level that the author’s abilities really shine.  The scene in the castle where Finn first encounters the shade of his mother, or when Kelanim is in the chapel of wings, not a word is wasted.  The sense of being there, of visualizing what was happening, was particularly strong. 

Overall, Kindred and Wings had a more epic feel to it than I remember Hunter and Fox having.   That’s probably the result of how Ballantine handles the viewpoint characters.  The respective characters don’t alternate chapters or sections of chapters in a predictable manner.  Rather we see what we need to see when it’s time to see it.  That means that sometimes a character will be off stage longer in some parts of the book than in others.  We find out the Caisah’s secrets, and I really liked what those turned out to be.  Not everything you thought you knew in the first book was true.

If I had to find a flaw in the book, I felt that everyone coming together for the final confrontation was a little rushed.  I was expecting a cliffhanger ending with the final resolution in a following book.  The ending was satisfying, and I don’t mean to imply that it wasn’t.  I just wasn’t expecting it to happen in this book.

Kindred and Wings was a very satisfying read. It hits shelves tomorrow, so if this is your cup of tea, look for it.

Perils on Planet X Returns

If you aren’t familiar with Perils on Planet X, written by Christopher Mills and drawn by Gene Gonzales, then you’re missing out.  It’s a weekly sword and planet comic.  The writing and illustration are top notch.  Mills and Gonzales have taken a few weeks off for a well-deserved summer break, but now they’re back with the first installment of the second chapter.  Now’s a good time to get caught up on the story.  All pages are free.  You can check it out by clicking the link above.