Wednesday, February 11, 2015

'The Very Best of Kate Elliott', or, A Perambulation Through My Spotty Past


        I'm pretty sure this title is a lie.
Mind you, I don't think Tachyon is trying to be deceptive, but, to me, the true 'very best of Kate Elliott' are the poignant and powerful moments of aching perfection that you've been waiting and agonizing over for 400 pages while characters try to bridge the lonely distances between each other or find redemption for the shortcomings of their own imperfect souls (and yes, that was all one sentence, thank you). It's not that Kate Elliott isn't an amazing short fiction writer, it's that her novels are just So. Damn. Good.
         This collection of her brilliant short works is out this week, so just go buy it, and thank me later. Because you will thank me. You'll thank me for every perfectly written sentence that breaks your heart, or fills the hole you didn't realize was there, and you'll thank me for every moment these perfect jewels of a story make you go 'no THAT one is my favorite' until you read the next one.

So now I'm going to circle back to my spotty past and how much I love Kate Elliott.
Many years ago, I picked up this book called 'The Labyrinth Gate' by Alis Rasmussen, which was this great portal fantasy (at a time when portal fantasy was all the rage). Alis went on and wrote a scifi trilogy with Bantam style covers that I didn't love) which had great characters, but I didn't finish the trilogy because I lost my copy of book two, and never found book three (this was back before Amazon).
And then she disappeared.
I hate when authors I like disappear (this was common in the bad old days pre-wifi).
A couple of years later, I read this book, 'Jaran' by Kate Elliott, which I really really liked. It's a first novel, and I am a total sucker for a great first novel. And this was a GREAT first novel. And then, as you did back in the 90s, I never saw any of the other books in the series come out (small town, no great bookstores. Life was barely worth living). After I moved to Phoenix, and got a job in a bookstore, we had a booksigning with Melanie Rawn for her 'Ruins of Ambrai', and she mentioned she had a book coming out with Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott.  And I was all 'hey, I loved her Jaran book!' and Melanie was all 'she wrote 3 more of them.  Plus she wrote some books under Alis Rasmussen.'
So let me explain, that the only thing I love more than a great first novel, is discovering an author I thought had quit writing had, in fact, written more books.
So TL:DR, go read Kate Elliott, because I've fallen in love with her writing TWICE, and Tachyon says this is her Very Best.*

(*It's not their fault that they're wrong.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finally! A Release Date for 'The Aeronaut’s Windlass' Announced!

It's finally coming!
The first book in Jim Butcher's new high fantasy steampunk series, The Cinder Spires is coming on September 29th of this year, and it's called 'The Aeronaut’s Windlass' from Roc Books, which also publishes his Dresden novels.
Anne Sowards of Roc describes it as follows:
 “Horatio Hornblower meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—it’s a fantastic, creative new series of airships, privateers, warrior monks, and mad sorcerers. Honestly, it’s like Jim put all my favorite things in one book!”
Jim's website (which you can find here) includes the following description:
"The Cinder Spires is set in a fascinating new world, where an ancient evil has awoken, plunging the world into a shroud of mists filled with monstrous and fantastic creatures. The fate of humanity will rest on the loyalty and courage of a single airship’s crew. New York Times bestselling author David Weber said, “This is Jim Butcher at his best…It’s steampunk meets magic with a dose of sci-fi for seasoning.”'
This comes just days after Jim provided us with a sneak peak at the first line of 'Peace Talks' in a much buzzed about tweet:

It's a great week to be a Jim Butcher fan!
Now, does anyone know where this image came floating around the interwebs from? Fanart?

Edit: Through the excellent work of my friend Kim, it looks like Windjager is the German edition of 'The Aeronaut's Windlass' and the Google translate of the description is:

"Since the fog has covered the whole world, people live in fortress-like towns on the tops of mountains. Entering the mist can be fatal. Nevertheless, as the troops summit fortress Aurora in the area of Albion, and a war can not be averted. The summit Prince of Albion calls his allies and prepares his people for battle. The fleet is strong, the men and women are well educated. But his greatest hope is the summit prince on the secret mission of Captain Grimm and his airship hunters."

Sounds like fun! I kind of hope that they use the same cover for the US edition as well, though there's no guarantee.

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 02/10/2015

Barnes, Jonathan • Cannonbridge                                            02/10
        Something has gone wrong with history in this gripping novel about a lie planted among the greatest works of English fiction.
        Flamboyant, charismatic Matthew Cannonbridge was touched by genius, the most influential creative mind of the 19th century, a prolific novelist, accomplished playwright, the poet of his generation. The only problem is, he should never have existed and beleaguered, provincial, recently-divorced 21st Century don Toby Judd is the only person to realise something has gone wrong with history.
       All the world was Cannonbridge’s and he possessed, seemingly, the ability to be everywhere at once. Cannonbridge was there that night by Lake Geneva when conversation between Byron, Shelley and Mary Godwin turned to stories of horror and the supernatural. He was sole ally, confidante and friend to the young Dickens as Charles laboured without respite in the blacking factory. He was the only man of standing and renown to regularly visit Oscar Wilde in prison. Tennyson's drinking companion, Kipling's best friend, Robert Louis Stevenson's counsellor and guide - Cannonbridge's extraordinary life and career spanned a century, earning him a richly-deserved place in the English canon.
       But as bibliophiles everywhere prepare to toast the bicentenary of the publication of Cannonbridge's most celebrated work, Judd's discovery will lead him on a breakneck chase across the English canon and countryside, to the realisation that the spectre of Matthew Cannonbridge, planted so seamlessly into the heart of the 19th Century, might not be so dead and buried after all...

Elliott, Kate • The Very Best of Kate Elliott 02/10
      Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars,Crossroads). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.
      In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.
       Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

McClellan, Brian • The Autumn Republic                             02/10
(Book three of the Powder Mage trilogy)
The capital has fallen...
       Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.
An army divided...
       With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.
All hope rests with one...
       And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed...
The Autumn Republic is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Wheel Turns and 'Winter Dragon' sneaks into our lives

"Lewis Therin returns home to his family after a 10-year war against 
an army of  darkness; he is greeted by an unexpected guest."

Last night, the internets were abuzz with rumors of a stealth pilot for a Wheel of Time TV series that was due to play at 130am on FXX, a channel I wasn't even sure existed on Comcast (note: it does). While I recorded it, and haven't had a chance to watch it, 'unrelentingly bad' seems to be the most common opinion of it, though I've seen some reactions that didn't seem to hate it so much.
Universal Pictures has had a seven year long option to develop a tv show or film, which it has failed to do. And the common opinion is that this was a stealth pilot put out to preserve the option (The Hobbit had a similar history) which was due to expire.
This morning, Harriet issued a press release, which I've included below.
Did you watch the pilot, if so, what did you think?

Edited to include this link to the pilot of Youtube, thanks to Alicia Beckerman for pointing this out:

This morning brought startling news. A “pilot” for a Wheel of Time series, the "pilot" being called Winter Dragon, had appeared at 1:30 in the morning, East Coast time, on Fxx TV, a channel somewhere in the 700s (founded to concentrate on comedy, according to the Washington Post).

It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.

Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.

I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.

I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.

Harriet P McDougal
President and CEO
Bandersnatch Group, Inc.
February 9, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: 'Pacific Fire' by Greg Van Eekhout

You know those books where the first book was so much better than the second book? This isn't one of those. This is one of those books where an idea from the first book bears unexpected fruit in the second one. I really liked California Bones, but Pacific Fire may be the book that in the future I will say I became a fan of Van Eekhout.
This book stands just fine without having read the first book, the major plot points get hit on, without revealing too much that will spoil the joy of reading of it, and that's a tough road to hew to. This has been my favorite book I've read this year so far.

While Van Eekhout isn't writing for beautiful prose (there are no lush descriptions of the majestic Pacific) he does something I appreciate almost as much; he writes a lean fast-paced book that moves. He doesn't waste space writing glorious prose. And for the type of book this is, I really like that.

  I hate to say I miss Daniel a lot in this book. It's not a spoiler, it's in the cover blurb, but Daniel isn't our main character. While Sam's voice grows on you in the same way that Daniel did in the first book, I just missed Daniel. That likely says a lot about how well Greg can write a character you grow to care about, doesn't it?

  I like the world Van Eekhout has built, in a 'magic world I have no desire to live in' kind of way. This isn't Narnia, or even Hogwarts. The powerful in this world are food for the more powerful. And when you're at the top of the heap, you have to worry about everyone below you. It feels like the apocalypse is going to happen at any moment (seriously, you just know Northern California is just going to fuck up his alternate LA eventually).

Managed Expectations:
  I think Greg does a great job of managing expectations in this book, and I think the way he switches gears on you, so that you don't always know what you think you know, is consistently well done. When Daniel and Sam fuck things up, and things go wrong, it's at times and places where that's likely to happen.
My only way I can wrap this up is, oh god how long til the third book?!?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 02/03/2015

Bear, Elizabeth • Karen Memory        02/03
        “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”
         Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new inKaren Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century—an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
          Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Gaiman, Neil • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Discoveries   02/03
       Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors andFragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.
       In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warningincludes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.
        Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.
         A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day

Monday, February 2, 2015

Borderlands in SF to close, or, Why I think there's more than meets the eye to this decision

      So yesterday Borderlands Books in SF announced they were closing in March. And while the closing of any bookstore is a tragedy, this is one of the most revered specialty bookstores our genre has.
      But there are some very suspicious things to me in this announcement. Actually, there are several things I'm suspicious about. The first thing that occurred to me is why the first response of the owners isn't to sell. We aren't talking about a random hole-in-the-wall bookstore, this is a destination bookstore. When I went to San Fransisco last year, this was on my list to-do. Just as when I finally make it to San Diego again, I'll go to Mysterious Galaxy. This type of national name recognition has value to a buyer.
        But the more I thought about the post, the more the facts as described didn't add up. I don't usually criticize the way other people choose to run their business, but the owners of Borderlands invited inspection by choosing to post details about their business that don't even stand up to a cursory examination. I'm not criticizing their decision to close, but the logic and numbers used to reason it.
       The principle excuse given was that the wage hike that starts phasing into effect this year and finalizes in 2018 (yes, that's 3 years away) will increase payroll costs by 18%. I don't know what Borderlands is paying their people, but this indicates that it's not currently much above minimum wage. The thing about wages is that they're tax deductible, so the argument that they will need to increase sales by 20% means that either they have no tax liability ever, even on years that they made a record profit like 2014, or that there is something else going on.
      Another thing that didn't add up for me was the way they address staffing. The owner posts about how they would have to drop half of their staff to offset a less than 20% increase in labor over the next three years. This logic doesn't add up at all. You don't reduce your staffing 50% to account for a 20% increase in labor costs, the majority of which isn't even in effect this year.
      The 18% increase stated for their labor costs under the new minimum wage comes out to about 6% a year. This is about flat for the usual sales increases that an established business would expect per year. After the great year they claim to have had in 2014, I'm surprised they're not expecting some type of increase in 2015.
Or 2016.
Or even in 2017.
       The odds that things will be flat for the next three years, in fact, is virtually non-existent. I've never worked for a business with flat sales for three consecutive years in an improving economy.
      Which brings me back around to my original statement: there is something else going on with this closing than what has been presented to us.