Monthly Archives: September 2013

State of the Blogs

Okay, so it’s been what, about six weeks since I launched four blogs, two new and two that had been hosted at another site?  Something like that.

Time to take a look at how things are going. Traffic is down somewhat but holding fairly steady, all things considered. Of course, that’s for Adventures Fantastic and Futures Past and Present at the old site. The traffic for the new posts is pretty slim, as is the traffic on the two new blogs.

None of which surprises me. I knew the old sites would continue to attract hits. Unless I’d posted something new that either someone at a high traffic site linked to or was pretty controversial, most of the pageviews on any given day were older posts, usually ones someone had linked to at a high traffic forum. I’m surprised and pleased that I’m still getting that many hits there.

I knew it would take a while for traffic to pick up here, and I’m not too worried about it. I had my hands full with getting the semester off the ground after the new site went live, so there wasn’t much new content the first couple of weeks.

I’ve gotten dozens of comments here, but almost all of them have been spam, including something like half a dozen in Japanese. (I’m too lazy tonight to go back and count.) That has surprised me a little because I haven’t heard from one or two of the regulars who would comment frequently. I’m wondering what’s up with that, although I’m not taking it personally. Probably something about how things changed over.

I have gotten a couple of new comments on the other site. One was from Henry Kuttner’s great niece, which I posted about here.

The other comment was from William Jordan on One Fearful Yellow Eye:

Great review. My first McGee was the “Green Ripper”. I was hooked, would stay up most of the night reading McGee. Then I read them in order. I love them all, but my three favorites are: A Purple Place For Dying, Nightmare In Pink, Bright Orange For the Shroud, The Green Ripper. Also in the non McGee, The Drowners-1963, Where is Janice Gantry-1962, and April Evil-1956 are great, they all are. Boo Waxwell from Bright Orange For The Shroud, will get your attention.

So things aren’t going too badly at the moment, although I wouldn’t complain if traffic and comments picked up some.  I’m going to try to post between the three fiction blogs more regularly, with at least one post on the science fiction and noir blogs every couple of weeks.  I’ll still try to post here every few days.  Dispatches should get a new post every second month or so, since those will involve some research and probably travel.

So what’s in the queue?  I finished reading and sent a review of a first novel by an Australian author to the David Gemmell Awards.  It’s a bit late, so I’m not sure if they will even run it.  (This is what happens when you have stacks on top of stacks.)  This particular book didn’t make the short list and final voting closes tomorrow.  The plus side is I won’t have to wait a couple of months to run a slightly longer version of the review here.  I’m going to post some things related to Halloween.  These will be different than the 6 Weeks of Scares posts I’m running at Amazing Stories.  I’ve got a science fiction novel I’m trying to read in the next week to ten days, Joshua P. Simon’s latest novel is in the queue for later this month, I’m going to tackle at least one Heinlein, maybe two, plus some detective fiction and short stories.  Plus one or two special topic posts are in the works.  I also still need to write up the post on the Menger Hotel for Dispatches From the Lone Star Front.  That will probably happen this week.

Plenty of things to keep me busy, in addition to taking my WordPress skills to the next level.  And somewhere in there I’ve got a crime story to finish and some fantasy to write.

I Hear From Henry Kuttner’s Great Niece

Kuttner close up

Henry Kuttner

I’m going to do a “state of the blog” post sometime in the next couple of days, but I wanted to pass on something that I thought was really cool in its own separate post.

I’m still getting the occasional comment over on Blogger, and one of them was from Bridgette, Henry Kuttner’s great niece, commenting on the Kuttner birthday post.  Here’s what she said.

Henry was my great uncle and sadly I have never read any of his work. Love reading things like this. Fall will be the time to do it.

And my reply:

Bridgett, thank you so much for your comment. Did you know him or did he pass before you were born? If you knew him, I would love to hear any memories you would care to share. You can reach me at

I’ve moved the blog to a new site and carried all the content over. You can find it at I’ll be writing more posts about Kuttner and Moore there over the fall and winter.

I replied on the original site in case she checked back.  So far I haven’t heard anything from her.  I’m hoping I will.  I’ve not seen much biographical information about Kuttner, and I would love to know more about his life.  While the thought of writing a biography is a daunting one, if I could get enough material for a book, I’d be willing to give it a try.

David Tallerman’s Easie Damasco is Back

Prince ThiefPrinceThief-144dpi-198x300
David Tallerman
Angry Robot
UK Print
Date: 3rd October 2013
ISBN: 9780857662675
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback R.R.P.: £8.99

US/CAN Print
Date: 24th September 2013
ISBN: 9780857662682
Format: Small (Mass-Market) Paperback R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$9.99

Date: 24th September 2013
ISBN: 9780857662699
Format: Epub & Mobi R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I like David Tallerlman’s Easie Domasco novels (reviewed here and here.) They’re fun, fast-paced stories with a delightfully flawed protagonist. There’s a great supporting cast that you care about. In short, the series is fantasy with heart.

I don’t know if Tallerman has plans to extend the series beyond this book. (I would hope so, as there are directions he could take the series that would be interesting. Such as who built those tunnels?) If not, then Prince Thief is a good conclusion, with all the main loose ends tied up. I’m going to be vague about the plot to avoid spoilers from the earlier books, especially Crown Thief.

In this one, Easie kidnaps a prince, although the prince is a more than willing participant. Easie also engages in more introspection than he has so far. He’s grown as a character through the previous books, but in this one he really takes a long look at himself. He won’t be the same person when all is said and done, which is one reason I hope we see more of him.

There’s a good deal of humor. Tallerman gives Easie a delightfully dry and cynical (as well as self-justifying) voice. But the book is also probably the darkest of the series. In addition to new characters, all our old friends from previous volumes are present, but not all of them will make it to the end.

A pretty significant sword duel occurs near the end of the book, and Tallerman handles it well. He uses just enough description to allow the reader to picture what’s happening without bogging things down in too much detail.

This series is solid adventure fantasy, but with a twist. The stock thief in Tallerman’s hands is more than just a generic character. He’s unique, a fresh and original creation with enough familiarity to him that readers won’t be put off.  If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll want to pick this one up.  It’s the best of the three.

I’d like to thank Angry Robot Books for providing the e-ARC of Prince Thief.

Seven Forges Begins a Promising New Series

SevenForges-144dpiSeven Forges
James A. Moore
Angry Robot Books
UK Print Date: 4th October 2013
ISBN: 9780857663825
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback R.R.P.: £8.99

US/CAN Print  Date: 24th September 2013
ISBN: 9780857663832
Format: Large (Trade) Paperback  R.R.P.: US$14.99 CAN$16.99

Ebook Date: 24th September 2013
ISBN: 9780857663849
Format: Epub & Mobi  R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

While this novel is his first epic fantasy, James A. Moore has been working in the horror field for some years now. After reading this book, I’m glad he’s turned his hand to epic fantasy. Seven Forges was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’d like to thank Angry Robot Books for providing me with an e-ARC.

There are a number of viewpoint characters, but the main character is a mercenary named Merros Dulver. He’s leading an expedition through the Blasted Lands to a chain of mountains known as the Seven Forges. It turns out there is an entire valley on the other side of the Forges. An inhabited valley, and the inhabitants have been waiting for Dulver. Not the expedition he’s leading, but Dulver himself. Before he goes to meet with him, one of the women traveling with the expedition prophesies about what will happen to him after he leaves.

The inhabitants of this region are some serious badasses. They believe each mountain is the home of one of their gods, and their gods are gods of war. While some of these gods believe in mercy, not all of them do. And their worshipers’ devotion to them is absolute. They follow the directions of their gods without hesitation.

Dulver brings a contingent of them back with him to the Empire of Fellein. He and the person who hired him, a sorcerer who has served as advisor to the Emperor for hundreds of years, hope to establish peaceful relations with the strangers. Of course, the words “war is coming” on the cover above the title should tell you that’s probably not going to happen.

I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that. It’s obvious where the story is heading to anyone who is paying attention. What Moore does is use that knowledge to build tension. Something is going to go wrong, but what? And when? Who will end up dead? (You know people will.)

Moore develops his cast well, fleshing out all the major players and many of the minor ones. He makes you care about them. There were a couple of places where I felt some of the foreshadowing was a bit on the heavy side, but that’s a minor quibble. The other quibble was that the e-ARC didn’t have a map. I was almost done with the book before I realized I had the geography turned around in my head. Hopefully, the print edition will have a map. If not, then maybe in the second book, which is scheduled for release sometime next year.

Moore handles the story and the different characters well. He hints at things that make you wonder and want to know more.  His fight scenes are visceral and compelling. The political intrigues are  multi-layered. We get enough glimpses of the magic system, or systems probably is more accurate, to want to know more about how magic works.  Pay attention to what Moore tells you. Pay attention to what he doesn’t.

I finished Severn Forges in four nights, staying up later than I should to do so. It’s not often I’ll stop and reread a scene, but I did more than once. I’m looking forward to see where Moore takes the story next. The prophecy Dulver received early in the book hasn’t been completely fulfilled yet.

Angry Robot hasn’t posted an excerpt yet, or I would include it here.  It hits shelves on this side of the Atlantic on Tuesday, in the UK ten days later.  Preorder your copy now so you won’t have to wait longer than necessary.

A Review of The Scroll of Years

ScrollofYearsThe Scroll of Years
Chris Willrich
Pyr Books
Trade paper $15.95 US $17.00 Canada
Ebook $11.99
Amazon  B&N Indie Bound

A Scroll of Years is the first novel about thief Imago Bone and poet Persimmon Gaunt. The pair have appeared in 5 short stories to date, and the first is included in this volume. Somehow this series has managed to fly under my radar. That’s something I’m going to need to fix. Looking at Willrich’s website, I may have read one or two but didn’t realize they were part of a series.

Anyway, Bone and a pregnant Gaunt are fleeing from Night’s Auditors. They are a pair of hit men who don’t merely kill their victims. In essence they steal their victims’ souls. They’re a pair of nasty dudes, and they have a dragon working for them. One of them controls a fire spirit. The other has a mirror embedded in his forehead which shows all possible things his victim might do. These guys are hard to kill, and they don’t give up easily.

Gaunt and Bone flee across the ocean to a land much like Imperial China. Gaunt has a mark forming on her belly that resembles two dragons. It’s a sign that the child she carries is someone a lot of powerful people want to get their hands on. Gaunt and Bone are going to need all the allies they can get.

The writing is rich and subtle, and Gaunt and Bone are foremost of a cast of delightfully flawed characters. Some fantasy novels are like a tankard of ale, intended to be slammed back. The Scroll of Years is of a more refined vintage, one in which you savor the writing as well as the story and characters.  The story takes place over both months and years simultaneously.  (That statement will make sense if you read the book, trust me.)

Gaunt and Bone have been compared to Fafhred and the Grey Mouser. I can see the resemblance, and I’d bet money that Fritz Leiber was one of Willrich’s influences. But that comparison runs the risk of limiting the characters or skewing a potential reader’s expectations. I see echoes of an earlier generation of writers in this book. Writers such as Ernest Bramah with perhaps a dash of Dunsany and maybe a pinch of Clark Ashton Smith. Plus a nod to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Leiber’s heroes were clearly cut from the same general cloth as Conan, inhabiting a milieu rooted in Western tradition where any portrayal of Eastern cultures were filtered to a greater or lesser degree through the West’s perceptions of the East. As Willrich notes in the Acknowledgements, this particular work is firmly planted in Chinese soil. The titular Scroll of Years is a concept I’ve not come across in much European based fantasy.  And rather that detracting, the Chinese folk tales Willrich interjects into the story give it added depth and resonance.

The Scroll of Years is not like anything I’ve seen recently. Willrich has a fresh voice, and with this novel (I can’t speak for the short stories, not being familiar with them yet) he expands the boundaries of sword and sorcery.

The events in this book grow out of the short stories, and there are one or two passing reference to previous events that seem to refer back to them. Don’t let that stop you from picking this one up. You can enjoy The Scroll of Years on its own merits. The ARC I have says today is the release date (which is why I wrote the review today), but the author’s website says the 24th.  Either way, look for a copy if this sounds like it might be your cup of tea. And if Pyr want to publish the short stories (with one or two new ones included, hint, hint), well, that would be fine with me.

I’d like to thank Lisa Michalski at Pyr Books for the review copy.

Worldcon Report, Part 2, Photos

As promised, here is the second part of my Worldcon report, which will mostly consist of photos along with some commentary.  I hate formatting a bunch of pictures, so I apologize for any sloppiness in the presentation.


Exhibit Hall

This picture shows the exhibit hall. The art show is on the left, the exhibits are on the right, and the dealers’ room is at the back. This was a very open space and well laid out. It was easy to navigate and find things.


Reception for James Gunn



The reception for James Gunn. Gunn is seated at the table in the middle of the picture. I don’t know who everyone is but John Kessel and Sheila Williams (editor of Asimov;s) are in the picture.  Many of the people here had some personal connection to Gunn.


Brad Denton and Howard Waldrop



This picture is from the panel on Texas authors who have passed on, and shows Brad Denton on the left and Howard Waldrop on the right.  Much of the discussion centered around Chad Oliver since he was about the only science fiction writer from Texas for a number of years.  The conversation eventually shifted to Tom Reamy (to whom I have a small personal connection) and Steven Utley.  The conversation never got around to Ardath Mayhar, which is unfortunate.  Each of the authors mentioned were unique, and there was no one quite like them.  If you haven’t read any of them, track down their works.  The NESFA editions of Chad Oliver were being given away for free, and Utley’s two volume collection of Silurian Tales had just been published.

Copy of 20130830_221050

Bill Cavalier outside the Cavalier Room

The picture to the left is REHupa editor Bill Cavalier outside “his” room at the Menger Hotel.  The bar in the Menger hotel is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders.  There are a number of pictures and displays about that.  I’ll write up a post for Dispatches From the Lone Star Front and put the pictures I took of the bar in that one.  Bill has been after me to join REHupa.  I probably will, but I’ve got so much on my plate right now that I want to make sure I can handle the added commitment.  (I said “probably”, Bill.  That’s not a Yes, at least not yet.)





20130830_200650Damon Sasser, Rusty Burke, and Harry Turtledove are discussing Robert E. Howard’s horror stories.  Turtledove was channeling L. Sprague de Camp at times.


Legacy Circle Dinner



This picture is the Robert E. Howard Legacy Circle Dinner that was held Saturday night.  Clockwise starting on the left are Paul Herman, Bill Cavalier, Rusty Burke, Dave Hardy, Damon Sasser, Jeff Shanks, Patrice Louinet, Rob Rhoem, John Bullard, and Ben (whose last name I never caught).  The place were tried to go to told us there would be over an hour wait, so we ended up eating at an Italian restaurant up the street.  It was an interesting the experience.  The food was good, although my lasagna wasn’t very hot.  There was almost no one there, the manager seated us in front of the window and sent over three plates of calamari on the house, and they had just gotten their liquor license renewed and the wine list wasn’t up to date.  I’m guessing there had been a change in management.


At the Buckhorn Bar

Afterwards, most of us ended up at the Buckhorn Bar, which Robert E. Howard visited.  Still with us are Jeff, Bill, Rusty, Paul, Rob, Patrice, Ben, and Damon.  They closed right after we got there (it was only 9:00 on a Saturday night for crying out loud); we moved on to the Menger Bar.


20130830_100358The Foundation booth.  Good help is hard to find.  I helped out when needed.  On the table are all of the books from the Foundation that are currently in print.

20130831_183646Finally, two scenes from San Antonio.  First, the most sacred plot of soil in Texas, the Alamo at sunset.

20130902_084027Second a street scene on the way to breakfast Monday morning, some kid doing the perp walk.  I know the people in the background and ended up joining them for breakfast.  They were so intent on the menu that they never saw the cops walk this kid by them.

Worldcon Report, Part 1

This is going to be the written report, mostly without pictures because I haven’t had time to sort through the ones I took and see what I want to post.  It’s been one of those weeks at work and it started on the way down to San Antonio.  I spent more time than I would have liked dealing with a couple of problems that waited until I was on the road to arise.  I post some pictures in the next few days.


James Gunn at his reception.

I had to teach class Thursday morning, so by the time I got to San Antonio, checked into the hotel and hoofed it over to the convention center to register, I just made it before registration closed.  I wandered the dealer’s room and familiarized myself with the layout before grabbing a bite.  At least I intended to.  I ran into Adrian Simmons, editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and ended up accompanying him to a private, invitation-only reception for James Gunn.  Adrian had been invited, and I went along as his guest.  It was a great event, and I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with him.  He’s 90, and critics are calling his new novel his best.  I picked up a signed copy before the weekend was over.  There’ll be a review going up at Futures Past and Present sometime in the next few months.  Learning of Fred Poh’s death made me extra glad I grabbed a signed copy, in spite of being a little overbudget.


What would you eat for a book?

Later I attended the Bookswarm party, which was packed.  I got a chance to talk to Martha Wells for a few minutes, and I walked away with two free books.  The theme of the party was Eat a Bug, Get a Book.  The bugs were sanitized and freeze dried.  (I ate a mole circket and a dung beetle and got The Other Half of the Sky edited by Athena Andreadis and Exile by Betsy Dornbush.)  The highlight of the party was getting to meet Brad Beaulieu, Douglas Hulett, Courtney Schafer, and Zachary Jernigan.  If you haven’t read them, you should.  Other than a glimpse of Jernigan from across the street, the only one of that group that I saw after that night was Courtney Schafer.

The next day was one of those where there was about twelve hours of programming I wanted to attend, all of it in a three hour block.  I went to most of the Robert E. Howard panels, of which there were many.  Most of the hanging out I did with friends was with members of the Robert E. Howard Foundation or chatting with folks at parties.  Saturday was much the same, but Sunday was a little more relaxed.  Among the non-Howard panels I attended were a discussion of C. L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, the history of firearms in the 1800s, a discussion on writing that included Michael Swanwick and James Patrick Kelly, a panel of Texas writers who have passed on, and readings by Jack McDevitt and Howard Waldrop.  I only caught part of the panel on sword and sorcery since it was up against one of the more interesting Robert E. Howard panels.  The autographing lines were either nonexistent or ridiculously long, so I only got a few signatures.


Sword and Sorcery Panel: (l. to r.) Stina Leitch, Lou Anders, Sam Sykes, Saladin Ahmed, Chris Willrich

I went to the Alamo Saturday morning with Bill Cavalier, editor of REHupa.  He hadn’t seen it, and it had been a while since I had paid my respects.  Next to the Alamo is the Menger Hotel.  Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders in the bar, and it’s something of a mini-museum.  I’ll do a write-up of it on Dispatches From the Lone Star Front over the weekend.

I didn’t try to attend the Hugos.  I wasn’t impressed with the slate of nominees for the most part.  But it’s a popularity contest, and currently my tastes and those of the field are in a state of moderate divergence.  The Legacy Circle of the REH Foundation went to dinner Saturday night.

There were some free books, including NESFA’s three volume Chad Oliver set.  I found the first two of the Heinlein juveniles I was missing, and picked up an extra copy of Glory Road.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of that novel.  I read it when I was about 14, and it’s about time for a reread.


It’s good to be the king.

Some overall thoughts.  First, this was the first time I’ve been able to attend a Worldcon.  It wasn’t quite what I expected.  I’ve attended World Fantasy twice, and the density of pros in that venue is high, but then that’s a convention that’s aimed at pros.  Worldcon is more geared for fans.  I never saw some of the bigger names, although I know they were there.  Most of the ones I did see, I only saw once or twice.  The convention center is a bit too spread out for this sort of event.

I was surprised at crowded it wasn’t.  I was also a little surprised with how old the average attendee seemed to be.  While people seemed to be having a good time, I didn’t detect a great deal of excitement.  Maybe that’s because I’m getting older, but everything seemed more laid back than I was expecting.

I’d certainly attend another Worldcon, but only if it wasn’t at the same time classes started.  And only if it wasn’t too far away.  While I enjoyed it and am glad I went, I wouldn’t travel halfway around the world, or even the country, to repeat the experience.

I’ll post some more photos later in the week.