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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS: Know It Now Webseries with James Rollins and Newcastle Winter Book Festival 2012

James Rollins has been a busy man for the last few years; he however has been striving to spread his wings in all possible ways for his readers. He recently has started a twelve episode web series that focuses on various ways the world might conceivably end, including interviewing experts in these various end-world scenarios. 

Here’s the episode schedule: 
 EP 06 Polar Shift -- November 3rd 
 EP 07 Nuclear Holocaust -- November 10th 
 EP 08 Solar Flares -- November 17th 
 EP 09 Alien Invasion -- November 24th 
 EP 10 Gamma Rays -- December 1st 
 EP 11 Super Volcano -- December- 8th 
 EP 12 Surprise -- December 15th 

So enjoy these interviews and for watching the remaining webisodes, check Jim’s blog on the dates mentioned above. Also keep an eye out for the last episode whose title reveals something crucial about its contents. 

The Newcastle Winter Book Festival is in its third year and looks to be going from strength to strength. The festival was created with the aim of creating a sustainable platform in the North East for authors and publishers, and to celebrate the distinctive culture of the region, engaging people in reading, books and ideas. 

So click here to check out the program schedule for this year’s event. Of particular interest to me are the following events taking place on the given dates: 

John Connolly A discussion on the Wrath of Angels and the Charlie Parker series 
Friday 23rd Nov
 7.30pm – 1 hour 
The Lit & Phil 
Tickets: £8/£6 

Join the acclaimed and internationally bestselling author John Connolly as he discusses the Wrath of Angels, the eleventh of the Charlie Parker novels. The Dublinborn John Connolly, who seamlessly mixes crime and horror, has won countless awards and has thousands of adoring fans all over the world. Not content with being a giant of the crime genre, Connolly is also a hugely entertaining speaker. He will be investigating and talking about the development of his protagonist Charlie Parker as well as the other characters, both heroes and villains, in the series. We get a step closer to Parker’s goal, and the reason for his being. 

Horror and Humour: Uneasy Bed Fellows or a Match Made in Heaven? Ramsey Campbell, Paul Magrs, Conrad Williams and Gail-Nina Anderson 
Saturday 24th Nov
5.30pm – 1 hour  
The Lit & Phil  
Tickets: £8/£6 

Does a healthy dose of humor enhance the impact of a horror story or undermine it? Why does a cinema audience immediately laugh after having a good scare? Many films, from Carry On Screaming to Shaun of the Dead, purposely combine horror and humour to arguably equal effect, but can prose fiction do the same? Is horror with a dose of humour just as relevant as that which takes itself deadly seriously? Join the irrepressible Ramsey Campbell, Paul Magrs, Conrad Williams and Gail-Nina Anderson for a witty debate as they describe and discuss horror and their own senses of humour and humour failures. 

Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Volk  
Saturday 24th Nov
6.45pm – 1 hour  
The Lit & Phil  
Tickets: £5/£3 

We are thrilled to welcome Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Volk to the festival. Ramsey Campbell is celebrating fifty years in print as a horror writer and he has been described as ‘Britain’s most respected living horror writer. His fiction spans psychological horror, social comment and satire, supernatural terror and comedy of paranoia. Some of his work, including Midnight Sun and The Darkest Part of the Woods, reaches for awe in the tradition of Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen. His latest novel The Kind Folk does so, and he will be reading from this and discussing his work before answering any questions the audience may care to raise. Steven Volk, a BAFTA-winning screenwriter, was the creator of ITV’s paranormal drama Afterlife, the BBC’s notorious 1992 Halloween “hoax” Ghostwatch and last year’s hit supernatural movie starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, The Awakening – which is being shown at this year’s festival. Today Volk will read from Whitstable, his forthcoming novella, which is set in the home town of a famous English horror actor who, for once in his life, comes face-to-face with a horror that is all too real... 

A Book of Horrors: What the Hell Happened to Horror?  
Saturday 24th Nov
8pm – 1 hour  
The Lit & Phil  
Tickets: £8/£6 

The festival is delighted to host Stephen Jones, Britain’s most acclaimed horror editor, and Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle and Peter Crowther – some of today’s most successful and exciting writers of horror and dark fantasy who are included in A Book of Horrors: an original anthology of all-new horror and dark fantasy fiction, in all of its many and magnificent guises. Join Editor Stephen Jones and his guests for a not to be missed discussion on ‘What the Hell Happened to Horror?’, and address questions such as what happened to traditional horror stories?, why are bloodsuckers more likely to show their romantic nature?, why do werewolves work for government organisations? and why can the walking dead be found sipping tea amongst the polite society of a Jane Austen novel?
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards are Live (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

As promised the Goodreads Choice Awards link is live as of today October 30th and the first write-in phase is underway.

"Opening Round: October 30 – November 11
Voting open to 15 official nominees and write-in votes."

In this round the interesting part is which 5 new books will be added to the official list, so consequently I voted for new books in almost each category. 

There were a few surprises insofar the eligibility criteria stated are not quite correct as they should refer to first English edition rather than first US edition, as quite a few books with 2012 US edition are not eligible as they had 2011 or earlier UK editions, while other books with no 2012 US edition but only a 2012 UK edition are. That is fine with me and I think it makes more sense anyway.

I will not present the cover collage for now as I will start doing it only from the second round when the full list is ready but I will note my votes and a few comments. I used mostly write-ins to add books I think should be on the list and my final vote may change in some cases depending whether the books in cause are added or not. Some of the choices below appear in other categories, but I think they make as much sense in the categories I voted for, while I did not have other strong choices there.

Go and vote yourself if you are a Goodreads member and register for the site and vote if not as Goodreads is just an awesome place for any book lover even if only in its cataloging, cover collages which I use extensively here on FBC and list aspects if the social aspect is of less interest. 

I found quite a few good books through comments on my reviews or local messages, while the ability to mark down any title I hear which seems interesting on my "wanted list" for further consideration is really invaluable as before I have been using Amazon wish list which was much less convenient. Also when you have a huge tbr pile like me, simply having it marked there reminds one of books one has, wants to read but could easily get lost otherwise. 

All for free!

Fiction - vote in - The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Mystery & Thriller - vote in - The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Historical Fiction - vote in - Poseidon's Spear by Christian Cameron

Fantasy- vote in - Sharps by KJ Parker
Science Fiction - vote in - The Hydrogen Sonata by IM Banks
Horror - The Twelve by Justin Cronin (read only 50 pages so far but it is good and anyway no other horror is of any remote interest - this one is more sf than anything but hey, one more vote...)

Romance -  vote in - Last Will by Bryn Greenwood
History & Biography - The Black Count by Tom Reiss
Nonfiction -  waiting for final list to see if I vote

Young Adult Fiction -  waiting for final list to see if I vote
Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction - vote in - The King's Assassin by Stephen Deas  (read only 50 pages so far but it is good and anyway no other YA-SFF is of any remote interest)

Middle Grade & Children's Books - vote in based on my son's preferences - The Ring of Wind by Chris Bradford
Goodreads Author - vote in - The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Interview with Joe Abercrombie (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 Official Author Website
 Read FBC's Review of The Blade Itself
 Read FBC's Review of Before They Are Hanged
 Read FBC's Review of Best Served Cold
 Read FBC's Review of The Heroes
 Read FBC's Review of Red Country
 Read previous FBC interview with Joe Abercrombie
 (Author Picture Credit: Patrick of Stomping On Yeti)

Joe Abercrombie is no stranger to fans of the fantasy genre, since he first debuted with The Blade Itself.  In the last seven years he has finished his debut trilogy and also written three standalone sequels whilst gaining multitude of  fans for his dark humor and action packed storylines. With the release of Red Country, he turned his hand towards a fantastic version of the Western story trope. Also adding to the awesomeness of the story was the return of an iconic character from his debut trilogy. My thanks to Jon Weir for his help in setting up this interview and for his smooth conduit efforts. In this interview we see Joe face some whimsical & a few different questions in regards to his work and thoughts. Read ahead to find out what motivates Joe besides basking in his own success...

Q] You have curiously set yourself apart from your contemporaries by completing your debut series and since then have put out six books in seven years after your debut. What’s your secret on maintaining such a pace besides rubbing other writers’ faces in your success? 

JA: Surely no reason is needed beyond rubbing people’s faces in my success? But actually I've been lucky in a number of ways. I was half way through my second book when I found a publisher, and starting on the third by the time the first was published, so I had a big head start, and that meant we could publish the first three 10-12 months apart and keep up what looks like a brisk pace with the publications thereafter. In fact my third book was the fastest to write, about 14 months, but although it’s also my longest, I was finishing off a story with settings and characters and all the plotting well established. 

Best Served Cold was way harder to write, and the three standalone books have all taken me about 20 months each, which doesn't look quite so impressive. That head start has well and truly run out now, sadly, and I think it’ll be a while before another book in the First Law world surfaces, especially since it’ll be the first in a trilogy and I want to get the whole thing drafted before releasing the first book. But in the end, every writer works differently and every project has its own challenges. Things take as long as they take… 

Q] You have effectively created a sort of sub-genre with your books & writing style. With the criteria for being labeled as such being dark humor, grey characters and bleak/gritty situations. Any thoughts on this “Abercrombie-esque fantasy” label and the further darker fantasy it has spawned? 

JA: Wow, I don’t know that I see things that way. I’m not sure who would be described as writing Ambercrombie-esque fantasy. Other than me, I guess. I don’t particularly see myself as the standard-bearer for anything – that’s way too dangerous and exposed a position. I've always just tried to write the kind of books I want to read, and that does tend to mean dark humor, grey characters, and gritty situations, as you describe. I think there’s always been a strong tradition for that type of work, for all it was very much eclipsed commercially in the eighties and nineties by more romantic, Tolkien-esque stuff. I’d point to guys like Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, and of course GRRM as doing similar things long before I picked up a pen. Or indeed was born. 

Q] When you announced your book deal for four more books with Gollancz, you mentioned that it either could be “twice two” or “one plus three” now with the release of Red Country, it is almost certain that you have gone with the latter pattern. Your thoughts on choosing to go with this pattern? 

JA: I wrote a trilogy, then three linked standalone books, so another trilogy feels like the right step to take next. With the First Law I had the luxury of writing a good part of the third book before the first was released, though, and I want to make sure that this trilogy is also coherent and cohesive, which for me probably means drafting the whole thing, then working on each book individually to get it ready for publication. I really don’t want to be writing the conclusion, have a great idea and feel - if only I could have done things differently early on, but be stuck with something already published. That means probably a pretty significant delay for the first book, but that the three books can hopefully be released pretty quickly thereafter. 

Q] What are the next three books going to be about? Any thing you can reveal in regards to plot details or timelines? 

JA: They’ll probably take place chiefly in the Union about 20-30 years on from the First Law, centering on a civil war, with some of the characters from the First Law moved into the background and their children being some of the central characters. Creeping industrialization will also be on the horizon… 

Q] You have written two short stories so far both related to characters from “The Heroes”. Any chance you plan to write any more featuring others? 

JA: Yeah, I've actually written five stories in all. Two are for forthcoming anthologies, though I’m not sure when they’ll appear, and a special edition of Red Country for Waterstones in the UK has a little extra in it. They’ll all appear in an anthology sooner or later, though I wouldn't hold your breath. 

Q] As much as I love Nine Fingers, for me Glotka was the standout character of the First Law trilogy. He reminded me a lot of Tyrion from ASOIAF as both of them don’t think of themselves as heroes and their actions are grey and their wit sharper. Who do you think amid both of them is the more morally conflicted character? 

JA: Tyrion is a fantastic character, very nuanced and also very unusual in fantasy at the time that I read A Game of Thrones, made a big impact on me and he’s probably a good part of the inspiration for Glokta, whether that was conscious or not. I guess they’re both outsiders, survivors, forced to live on their wits, willing to do some pretty unpleasant things to not be beaten. Who’s greyer? Does it matter? 

Q] Any chance you will ever write a solo Glotka story or short story/novella as with Red Country, Logan Ninefingers does get his own book so as to speak.

JA: It has been suggested… 

Q] A funny thing I noticed that you have been generous with blurbs to UK authors (S. Deas, MD Lachlan & C. Wooding). Why no blurb-love for your fellow wordsmiths across the pond? 

JA: I’m still sore about the whole Boston Tea Party thing. What a waste of good tea. Put simply, I’m British, live in Britain and my primary publisher is British, so the people I see a lot, know well, owe in one way or another, and who are therefore likely to prevail on me to read something are British too. 

Q] With Red Country, we get to finally see the return of Logan Ninefingers. Considering how you ended the First Law trilogy; many fans were left wondering what his final fate was. So with this book does he get the ending he wishes or the ending he deserves? 

JA: Hah. Well, I would never want to spoil an ending for anyone, so let’s just say that I hope the ending is fitting… 

Q] Back in 2008 you had written about A Game Of Thrones, you lavished fulsome praise on it but said as the series progressed, it lost its “apparent sense of focus”. The latter books couldn't match the narrative moment of their predecessor. Now that’s a very astute observation which goes against popular opinion, what do you think makes the latter books especially A Storm Of Swords to be of a lesser pedigree? 

JA: A Game of Thrones was a very important book for me – it came at a time when I’d largely stopped reading fantasy and felt that it tended to repeat the same patterns over and over, was hugely predictable. So it really made my jaw drop in all kinds of ways, and demonstrated that you could be dark, unpredictable, realistic, and adult in every sense of the word while still writing what was very recognizably commercial epic fantasy. It was a big inspiration in trying to write myself, so I think it was inevitable that later books   wouldn't   be able to sustain that impact, if only because the first had gone off like a flashbulb in the darkness for me.

But, with the disclaimer that I still write some pretty hefty books by most standards, I like things to be tightly focused, to have patterns and balance and a sense of tight structure, so I was always slightly disappointed that the number of viewpoint characters increased so sharply, and the story became wider and more diffuse. I’d have preferred more central thrust. But what do I know? I get the sense that GRRM is doing alright… 

Q] Your latter Gollancz book covers have stuck to a pattern especially with maps, considering you had once posted that you weren't too fond of them in fantasy books. What lead to the change in direction with the covers and what are your thoughts as you see them all together? 

JA: I absolutely love the look that Gollancz have given the books. I think the books look striking, different, establish a recognizable brand, and aren't off-putting to either fantasy fans or more mainstream readers, which is an extremely difficult balancing act. On maps, well, I’m a big fan of them, and spent a lot of my childhood drawing them, but I think they need to be used in the right way. I’d hate to have a childish daub on my fly-leaf just because you’re supposed to. The Heroes, say, has five maps inside, as well as the one round the outside, but I think they’re used in a slightly different way and add to the experience. Each case as it comes. 

Q] What would you say to readers who have complained that your work has become bleaker with each book and what was novel in its approach earlier, is now becoming a tad predictable with the latter books? 

JA: I would say, ‘pfft!’ 

Q] Lastly in all your books, you have thanked four Abercrombie brethren. Could you expound on their role in shaping your books and tell us a bit about them as well. 

JA: Those would be my parents, brother, and wife. They've been hugely helpful and influential throughout, especially in the early years before getting published. My mother was an English teacher and editor, my father was a sociologist, so they’re both widely read, erudite and, most importantly, ruthless in their criticism. After first gathering the courage to show my family what I was doing, about a quarter of the way through The Blade Itself, I really wrote mostly because I enjoyed discussing it with them so much. They've read everything I've done and commented ever since, although these days their comments tend to be more general, a lot of the detailed stuff I discuss first with my editor, with whom I also have an excellent working relationship. Very lucky in the people around me. 

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions, any last words for your multitude of fans worldwide especially about what we can expect from you next? 

JA: Over the next few weeks you can expect me to be playing Dishonored and Borderlands 2. It’s rigorous brain work, don’t you know…

NOTE: First Law trilogy cover montage courtesy of Fantasy Faction and Joe Abercrombie standalone cover montage courtesy of Orbit Books.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Miles Cameron (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

1. Miles, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well—I’ll say a little.  I live in Toronto, Canada, I’m a military veteran, and I have a family, a cat, a lot of books and a suit of armour.  I love to read philosophy, I love to read about chivalry, and I love the wilderness. 

2. What are some of your influences as a fantasy author?

First and foremost, JRR Tolkien.  I’m pretty sure it was only ten years ago I stopped re-reading the Lord of the Rings just before Christmas every year.  I love the Lord of the Rings, and I love the scholarship that his son put into gathering his papers—most of which I’ve also read.  Understanding Tolkien’s path from the inn in Bree to the Lord of the Rings helped me become a writer.   

T.H. White was another great influence—I’m reading ‘The Sword in the Stone’ to my daughter at bedtime, and realizing how many tidbits and snippets of T.H. White are ‘embedded code’ in my fantasy consciousness.  The dog’s boy…  King Pellinore.  All that good detail about hunting.  The lyrical descriptive passages.  And then—E.R. Eddison.  I LOVE Eddison.  I have a feeling I might not have liked him as a guy across the table—there’s a hint there of cruelty, perhaps—but his heroes are HEROES in all caps in classical Greek, and his villains are also heroes.  When they are cruel, they are cruel.  

Another major influence that I re-read just before starting Red Knight was William Morris’s City of the Sundering Flood.  I had a great friend—still do—but when I was a young teen she made me read all the ‘old fantasy’ like Eddison and Morris.  Morris loved craftsmanship and a somewhat tidied up and clean vision of the art of the Middle Ages.  I share his love of the art, and I can remember lying on the floor in front of a fireplace on our family farm reading his descriptions of armour and hoping that someday I could own some.

I don’t want to seem completely antiquated, so add Steve Erikson and Celia Friedman and Glen Cook and CJ Cheryh and… quite a few other authors.  Robert Heinlein.  Jerry Pournelle.  Larry Niven.  Ian M. Banks—wow, I think the world of Ian M. Banks.  I think his Culture novels are—what SF and Fantasy ought to aim at.  Fun, high adventure, sometimes comic, yet deeply informative, forcing questions, moralizing.  Terry Pratchett.  For many of the same reasons.

I also want to add Conan Doyle and Alexander Dumas and George McDonald Fraser.  And—you know, this could run on a long time.  Mary Renault?  Dorothy Dunnett?  The Red Knight has some Dorothy Dunnett in him…

3. I gather you spent time on your magical system…

Well, I like to think that real men and women spent time on it.  I’ve attempted—with some rationalizations, of course—to present hermetical magic as a fourteenth or fifteenth century practitioner might have wanted it to work.   But with that said, there a zillion influences on my magical system, and one of the strongest is modern electronic warfare.  I spent some of my former years tracking Iraqi SAM sites from a USN carrier aircraft, and the whole process of passive detection, active emissions—and sonar, and sonar detection—I realized on my first re-read of the Red Knight mss. that EW and ASW had become deeply embedded in my magic system.   

And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m an old RPG veteran, as well.  I’m not ashamed to say that in big scenes, I had a scratch sheet to track power expenditure for the major casters.  Yep.  I’ll also note in case anyone is watching that the one time that a character appears to grow more ‘spell points’ at a convenient moment—she does.  There’s a reason, and it will, I hope, seem cool when revealed later in the plot.  Or at least make sense.

4. You love chivalry….

I do.  I’ve studied it on and off since I was seventeen.  I tried to practice it in real conflict, and even in my modern life.  But I hope I’m not romantic about it—chivalry, ultimately failed as a method to restrain violence among warriors who were also petty kings.  On the other hand, we could still learn from the notion that rules in war are, in fact, good.  Anything that mediates the effects of war is good.  What I’m not, however, is pro-aristocrat.  I think too many fantasy novels take the social structure of the Middle Ages for granted.  I tried to play with that a little, without writing a Marxist polemic.

5. And according to your website you do Martial Arts.

Yes, I learn, and sometimes I teach.  I’ve been fencing since I was eleven.  There were dinosaurs back then.  I did a little unarmed stuff in the military, and now I’m far more interested in it.  For the last few years I’ve been learning as much of the Italian chivalric martial systems as I can get, and there’s lots of them and about how they work in the books—that’s mostly Fiore di Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia.  Guy Windsor has been my principal teacher and he’s been kind enough to write a spot on the website.  Mostly, learning to fight in armour with a two-handed sword is fantastic exercise, a great lesson in humility, and a fine way to stay in shape.  When you are past age forty—and I am—you need incentive to keep your waist size down.   

A good suit of armour with no room to grow is a great incentive.  I’m hoping to do some jousting—I’ve done a little, and I want to do more, as book two has a huge tournament scene…  If everyone in the world buys a copy, I might get to joust more than once.  I’m looking forward to visiting a friend in Pennsylvania in two weeks and spending a few days on horseback, and I may get to do a little tilting from the lance rest on my new breastplate—really, this is the stuff that turns me on.  I promise to post videos unless I fall off.

6. Anything else you want to say?

I’d like to give a push to the traitorson website, if allowed.  There will be content—more content—photos from good medieval reenactments (not just those I attend, either) and some stories—free—from the Red Knight world.  All the stories will, in the end, prove pertinent to the main plot.  They will be a little hidden.  There’s not going to be a link called ‘stories.’  There’s some great art by my friend and sometime sword student Dmitry, and Jessie Durham—and some guys from the real Middle Ages and Renaissance, so if you look it over you can see original paintings and armour that helped inspire me.

7. You didn’t even mention reenacting…

Next time, I promise!


I would like to thank Mr. Cameron for this entertaining interview and I will have  the review of The Red Knight asap - target date is October 30th.

Here are the first lines from The Red Knight for your pleasure:
"The Captain of Albinkirk forced himself to stop staring out his narrow, glazed window and do some work.
  He was jealous. Jealous of a boy a third of his age, commanding a pretty company of lances. Riding about. While he sat in a town so safe it was dull, growing old.
  Don’t be a fool, he told himself. All those deeds of arms make wonderful stories, but the doing is cold, wet and terrifying. Remember?
  He sighed. His hands remembered everything – the blows, the nights on the ground, the freezing cold, the gauntlets that didn’t quite fit. His hands pained him all the time, awake or
  The Captain of Albinkirk, Ser John Crayford, had not started his life as a gentleman. It was a rank he’d achieved through pure talent.
 For violence.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards Start October 30th (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

The 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards were a great experience and I followed them step by step with the final post HERE, while the earlier posts are linked there. Lots and lots of book lovers voted - as opposed to fans of particular authors or of dressing up - so while the awards are to a large extent a popularity contest, they are much more representative than any fan voted award in any genre.  

I plan to repeat the 2011 experience and do a series of posts following each round, my choices, comments, predictions etc, starting next Saturday, November 3, while the initial choices can be seen on Goodreads starting October 30. 
The official announcement, including method of selection, eligibility, categories, dates of each phase is included below. 
"15 Nominees in 20 Categories
Fifteen books will be nominated in the following categories: Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Romance, Memoir & Autobiography, History & Biography, Nonfiction, Food & Cookbooks, Humor, Graphic Novels & Comics, Poetry, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, Middle Grade & Children's Books, Picture Books, and Goodreads Author. 
Visit on October 30th to view the 2012 nominations!
Three Chances to Vote!
Three rounds of voting will be open to all 12 million Goodreads members, and winners will be announced December 4th.
Opening Round: October 30 – November 11
Voting open to 15 official nominees and write-in votes.
Semifinal Round: November 12 – November 18
The top 5 write-in votes became official nominees, bringing the total to 20 books in each category. Additional write-ins no longer accepted.
Final Round: November 19 – November 27
The field narrows to the top 10 books in each category, and members have one last chance to vote
About the Nominations

Instead of consulting publishing experts or a judging panel, we look to readers to find the best books of the year. We analyze statistics from the 170 million books added, rated, and reviewed on the site in 2012 and nominate based on a book's number of ratings and average rating. So a nomination is truly an honor because it comes straight from the readers!
2012 Eligibility
Books published for the first time in the United States in English between November 29, 2011 and November 25, 2012 are eligible for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. Books published in December 2012 will be eligible for the 2013 season."
Friday, October 26, 2012

GUEST POST: Halloween In Bulgaria by Harry Markov

Today, I have decided to speak a bit less about Tales to Terrify, Volume 1, because if I continue to speak about it, I may end up with an inflated ego and as far as my itinerary is concerned 'dealing with a giant, swollen ego-head' doesn't make an appearance. Instead, I want to talk about Halloween. Since Tales to Terrify, Volume 1 is a Halloween launch, the holiday itself is pretty darn hard to avoid.

Halloween for some is what Christmas is for others, a reason to go wild with decorations and have one hell of a good time. It's a Western holiday meant for everyone and anyone. Small children, parents, teen horror fanatics, the Wicca population and TV junkies (Halloween specials anyone). From what I have observed so far (because I'm always the one peering in from outside), Halloween gets people excited to the point I have seen posts dedicated to it since September (especially dedicated to decorations).

Although Halloween rules over the world with affordable, sometimes color-challenged merchandize, Eastern Europe isn't all that impressed with the commotion surrounding Samhain. Call us pretentious (I dare you), but Bulgarians lack the enthusiasm once pumpkin season comes on the horizon. Sure, some of the businesses decide to hang witches and bats, because why not. Any sort of diversity is welcome, but I have yet to see much excitement over the holiday.

Trick or treating has never caught on (considering the rates of extreme poverty in the country, I doubt a household would willingly subject themselves to buying candy for strangers) and decorating the family home is reserved for Christmas only. What did catch on, however, are the Halloween parties. As with all Southern nations with a pinch of Mediterranean in our blood (even though we aren't geographically quite there), we love a reason to open the bottle and celebrate something (anything), so dressing up and gathering to drink booze sounds just about right for us.

It might sound quite as exciting, because I'm sure Halloween parties are run-of-the-mill, but what I find more fascinating is the parties' place within their cultural context as well as the process of cultures leaking elements into other cultures. For instance, drinkers, party animals and colleagues enjoying an office Halloween party share similar memories and positive experiences from their childhood Halloweens, so the Halloween party is the natural evolutionary step for adults to enjoy this holiday. In Bulgaria, this emotional back story is missing and so serves different purposes.

Currently, malls all over the city I live in host Best Costume events with prizes and promises of a good time and drinks. In this instance the Halloween party becomes a promotional tool. My office will have an in-office event, which has been organized so that we grow closer to each other and create a spirit of community. In this case, the Halloween party acts as a team building exercise, where you have one sole object and that is socialize. I'm sure there are more examples, but I'm not going to run on and on.

Let's see what you have to say. Will you attend a Halloween party and what's your stance on them?

GAME: You can be one of the lucky 10 people to win a PDF copy of our anthology. All you have to do is find us on Facebook or on Twitter and answer the following question: What scares you most? The most creative responses will receive the coveted PDF copy and will be featured in our second November show.

The game will end on October 31st, the book's official launch date. A like and a follow will be appreciated, but are not a prerequisite to enter the competition.

ABOUT TALES TO TERRIFY: This Halloween, October 31, 2012, fans of the chilly dark and terrifying will have yet another reason to cower beneath the sheets as the stories that are voiced weekly on the internet’s scariest horror spinning site rise up to haunt the pages of “Tales to Terrify, Volume One.” “Volume One” is the Parsec-nominated, horror podcast, Tales to Terrify in book form.

At a generous 284 pages, “Volume One” gathers the best of the best--both titans of horror and fresh blood—and features 23 blood-curdling, nightmare-fueled tales. The book features work by Joe R. Lansdale, Gene Wolfe, John Shirley, Weston Ochse, Gary McMahon, Kaaron Warren, Margo Lanagan, Felicity Dowker, Angela Slatter and Christopher Fowler.

Tales to Terrify, Volume One” will have readers on the edge of their sheets as the candles burn low.

 You can follow the Tales To Terrify blog tour on the following dates and sites:

October, 22nd: Innsmouth Free Press
October,23rd: Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews
October, 24th: Kaaron Warren
October, 25th: Sci fi & Fantasy Lovin' News and Reviews
October, 26th: Fantasy Book Critic
October, 29th: Wag the Fox
October, 30th: Angela Slatter
October, 31st: Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Harry Markov has difficulties writing biographies in third person, but he follows this venerable, ancient tradition. What he has no difficulty is devouring written words, only to sit down and create some himself. He is a former child-author wannabe, who has settled for patience in order to gain at least a moderate understanding of the secret lives of novels and short stories.

A devoted (junior) connoisseur of the weird and the surreal, Harry won’t judge a book just case it has a muddled genre genealogy. On the contrary, the Markov prefers a rich blend of genres. Fantasy, weird, horror, science fiction, fiction or fairy tales, everything works.

When not writing fiction, Harry Markov reviews and writes articles for Pornokitsch, The Portal, Beyond Victoriana, Innsmouth Free Press and World SF Blog among others.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SFF vs "Mainstream" - a Few Lines From 12 Recent/Current Reads (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

1. "He sighed. His hands remembered everything – the blows, the nights on the ground, the freezing cold, the gauntlets that didn’t quite fit. His hands pained him all the time, awake or asleep.
The Captain of Albinkirk, Ser John Crayford, had not started his life as a gentleman. It was a rank he’d achieved through pure talent.
For violence."


2. Here are two things of mine: a glass unicorn with golden hooves, the body broken in several pieces, and what looks like a broken necklace. Did I break these? I stroke the horse’s thigh, this yes, but the necklace, no. The necklace came to me like this, links of smooth, small pebbles in shades of underwater. Each stone has clasps of metal on its ends or hardened bits of glue from where the clasps, once upon a time, connected. What is missing, what I do not have, is the letter that explains these stones, and what it is I’m to do with them now.


3. At sunset above the plains of Kwaalon, on a dark, high terrace balanced on a glittering black swirl of architecture forming a relatively microscopic part of the equatorial Girdlecity of Xown, Vyr Cossont–Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont, to give her her full title–sat, performing part of T. C. Vilabier’s 26th String-Specific Sonata For An Instrument Yet To Be Invented, catalogue number MW 1211, on one of the few surviving examples of the instrument developed specifically to play the piece, the notoriously difficult, temperamental and tonally challenged Antagonistic Undecagonstring–or elevenstring, as it was commonly known.


4.  I got a letter one day, a long letter that wasn’t signed. This was quite an event, because I’ve never received much mail in my life. My letter box had never done anything more than inform me that the-sea-was-warm or that the-snow-was-good, so I didn’t open it very often.


 5. His main problem was Sorcery itself. According to his entrance tests, it should have been his strong point, but all four aspects of Sorcery – Necromancy, Wizardry, Divination and Clairvoyance – gave him problems because he was scared rigid of spirits. He could recite the theory, but when he tried to use Wizardry gnosis he failed to summon anything. The same thing happened in Necromancy, when he couldn’t manage to summon the spirit of a recently dead young man because he was so unnerved at the corpse before him. 

All of the teachers were muttering to each other as he exited the arena, head bowed. His efforts at Clairvoyance were just poor; he couldn’t identify or find the hidden objects, much to his chagrin. And Divination, the last test, was a bit of a mess too. He’d had to divine his own future, which turned out not to look so good: he’d ended up interpreting a complex vision of stolen notes and hidden snakes as someone conspiring against him. He’d opened his eyes to find them all staring at him with raised eyebrows and skeptical faces


6. Sophie-de-la-Roche-Strasse radiates such a feeling of well-being that an objective observer might think its residents are all at peace with the world. Because the canal makes the walls damp, the front doors are wide open, so that the walkways over the canal look like tongues hanging out of gaping jaws. Number 7 – in tasteful white stucco – is without doubt the most beautiful building in the street. Wisteria cascades down it, sparrows chirp in the swathes of ivy on the walls and an old-fashioned lantern dozes in the porch, waiting to be lit at night. 

In an hour or so a taxi will come round the corner and stop at this building. The passenger in the back seat will raise his sunglasses in order to count change into the driver’s hand. He will get out of the car, tip his head back and look up at the windows on the second floor. A couple of doves are already picking their way across one of the window ledges, bowing to each other, fluttering upwards occasionally to look into the flat.


7.  From just over a billion kilometers away, the dwarf star burned like a distant, constant flare; the brightest light in the darkness, but still only a pinpoint of red fire. And the darkness was very empty. Any star system is largely empty. In any star system, if one were to take the combined mass of all the planets, all the asteroids and ice fragments, even of the star itself, and average it against the volume of space through which the gravity of that system's star hold measurable sway, the result would be statistically indistinguishable from hard vacuum.

But the importance of a star system isn't measured in mass. A round speck of iron and silicon wreathed in a thin bubble of gas could be a habitable world, home to millions or even billions of people. A ball of fusing hydrogen could be the sun gives that world warmth and ligh


8. Having spoken so passionately in favour of books, I had better admit that the first thing I would save is my 250-gigabyte hard drive, which contains all my writing from the last thirty years. After that, if there were still time, I would of course try to save one of my oldest books – not necessarily the most valuable, but the one I love the most. But how to choose? I am extremely attached to lots of them. I would hope not to have too long to deliberate. Perhaps I would take Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, Spier, Drach, 1490, on account of its wonderful illustrated plates on several folded pages.


9. For a brief moment he wondered whether to get up and try to save the book from further damage but then, catching the Sartrian look of the large macaw, that was pretending to be searching for something in its plumage, its head thrown back in an absurd attitude, its eye crazed, he decided to return to Caspar Schott’s manuscript.

It was pretty remarkable, if you thought about it, that such a find was still possible: a completely unpublished manuscript that had come to light in the course of an inventory at the National Library in Palermo. The librarian had not thought the contents worthy of anything more than a brief article in the library’s quarterly bulletin together with a note to the director of the local Goethe Institute.


10. Suddenly a gray shadow masked the girl’s expression. No, a curtain rose. Perhaps it was the real color of her skin that was coming out. For the first time she focused her eyes. As she gently felt along the edge of the table with the aligned fingertips of both hands, she stood up soundlessly and passed round in back of the narrow chair, making a shallow billow in the lemon-yellow curtains. She was a girl that black suited. A slender waist that defied gravity. 

Taking up the receiver, she dialed without consulting an address book, and, using the same finger she had used for dialing, she pinched a pleat in the curtain. A slender finger that seemed quite without articulations. She was apparently in the habit of pinching anything—perhaps some newly formed propensity to avoid biting her nails. The pinched curtain moved gently. I wondered if she weren’t a little drunk. But black and yellow were signs of “Danger, beware!”


11. It wasn’t often that Alyda was mistaken for a noblewoman and as amusing as flirting with the gentleman was, she really should introduce herself. Of course, she knew from past experience that as soon as she did, his attitude would change. He’d either run a mile, challenge her to an arm wrestling contest, or want to talk about the war in Suvia, which was a pity in this case. He was good looking—tall, sandy haired, a bit soft round the middle, but nothing that a little exercise wouldn’t sort out and she knew precisely the kind of exercise she’d like to put him to.


12. It was late in the day, and classes had ended. The library was nearly empty. I sat in a quiet corner, studying, when she appeared from nowhere and startled me out of my book.

“Are you busy this Sunday?” she asked.
Her question flustered me for a moment, I didn’t know what to say.  She was staring down at the floor, half hidden behind a bookshelf. 

“If you have plans, of course, don’t worry about it.” 
 She held a book in her hand, and absentmindedly rubbed her palm along its spine. I knew her from class, but we had never spoken before, and I had never been this close to her.


Inspired by Larry at the Of Blog, some lines from recent or current reads of mine that reflect sff versus mainstream with a little non-fiction put in; all are such that I would (and did in 7 cases) get the book if I weren't familiar with the author before (which I was in 5 other cases).

Only two reviewed so far here, though I reviewed some of the authors involved for other books and a few more are in the pipeline. I plan to eventually read and review all 12. 

Mostly but not all recent books, 7 men and 5 women authors, translations from French (3), Japanese (2), German (1), books that have won prizes, very famous writers and debut  authors, big publishers and small ones or even independently published while of the original English language, the authors are from the UK, US, New Zealand, Canada and coming to the US from Russia in childhood.

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