Fantasy Feed

Fiction: "Mephisto the Unruly" by George Sandison

Mephisto - Emma CoshThe fever dreams of Mephisto the Unruly were potent. They worked slowly at first, dragging slow, bright streaks of colour across the stained walls, but once they started to take physical form they would not be restrained.

As Mephisto shivered under the blankets, his temperature achieving untold heights, he watched the drawers of his cabinet slide open and bunches of gaudy flowers blossom from the fresh beds. Swirling smoke dragons coiled around the lampshade in silence but the great white rabbit in the corner said nothing. Occasionally it would doff its hat in a semblance of respect.

Mephisto knew on some level he was sick, but there seemed little point in challenging it. His staff would bring him soup and hot water with chunks of lemon and ginger steeping and that satisfied what little appetite he had. The rabbit in the corner absolutely wasn’t real, he understood that, but it still kept him company.

Continue reading "Fiction: "Mephisto the Unruly" by George Sandison" »

Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse

Gameshouse - PK

Three recent reads - a vintage fantasy, a terrific new trilogy and a particularly heavy-handed crime thriller.

Claire North's Gameshouse trilogy (2015), with apologies, as I did my frothing fanboy thing on Twitter, but, these are simply brilliant. The trilogy is comprised of three novelettes (novellas? long shorts? maxistories? minibooks?), each with a different narrator, setting and - wonderfully - tense. All three feature players in the enigmatic Gameshouse - a location/organisation for those that gamble, and gamble to win. The outer room is for the games we all know and love. The inner room is for the real players, the ones that manipulate lives and nations. 

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse" »

Fiction: "The Choreography of Masks" by David Pomerico

Masks - Banner - Jeffrey Alan Love

The candles mix with the floodlights, and down the road she sees the reflections off the tinted masks and plexiglass shields. She knows that only eyes like hers, eyes that are actually here, can catch that fiery gaze of the faceless men – there’s been a media blackout for days, cutting off the world from what is happening tonight. It was standard now, to deny real-time access to events as they unfolded, controlling the story and keeping it theirs. Yet another mask.

Continue reading "Fiction: "The Choreography of Masks" by David Pomerico" »

Pornokitsch at FantasyCon

Smiler's Fair

We're at FantasyCon!

You can find various Pornokitsch people at various things, including:

  • Friday, 5 pm - Writing in a Franchise - Bex chilling with Paul Kane, Mark Morris, Mark Latham and Brandon Sanderson
  • Friday, 7 pm - The Weird Western - Anne moderating, and Stark Holborn, uh, moderated? alongside Guy Adams, Benedict Jones, Ben Galley and Arianne Thompson
  • Saturday, 5 pm - Publishing in the 21st Century - Anne's hanging out with other friendly publishing types, including Marc Gascoigne, Gillian Redfearn, Natalie Laverick, Meg Davis and Jo Fletcher
  • Saturday, 2.40 pm - Rebecca Levene reading
  • Saturday, 3 pm - Agenting - Anne's wrangling an array of literary gurus, including Meg Davis, John Wordsworth, Ellen Gallagher, Kevin Murphy and Juliet Mushens

Also keep your eyes peeled for events featuring some of our favourite con-goers, writerers and talkerers, including Leila Abu el Hawa, Den Patrick, Jon Oliver, Scott Andrews, Matt Blakstad, John Connolly and Francis Hardinge.

The British Fantasy Awards take place on Sunday. Although we've not got a Pornokitsch/Jurassic horse in the race this year, Jared helped judge two of the categories (Artist and Comics), and swears that the results are awesome.

See you in the bar!

Griots (edited by Milton J Davis and Charles R Saunders)

51ZVI7hynML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Griots (2011) is a 'sword and soul' anthology, edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders. The origins of the anthology - and the genre - are explained in the introductions penned by both authors. In a nutshell, both gentlemen are fans of sword and sorcery fiction, Robert E. Howard and the like, but grew increasingly exhausted with the racism and Western essentialism engrained in the stories. Saunders grants that Robert E. Howard and his contemporaries were 'products of their time', but also notes that 'racism... was an integral part of the popular culture of the early decades of the twentieth century, and as such it pervaded pulp fiction'.

At times, Saunders writes, he could 'let it slide'. But he was also motivated to show that the 'non-stereotypical Africa of history and legend was just as valid a setting for fantasy stories as was the ancient and medieval Europe that served as the common default'.

The editors of Griots describe how they went about, not just creating their own stories, but also finding those by other authors. "There must be more", Davis writes - with these four words kept propelling him both to seek out other authors and also to write his own adventures.

Continue reading "Griots (edited by Milton J Davis and Charles R Saunders)" »

The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker

The Man of GoldIn 1975, Gary Gygax, wrote lavish praise in the foreword to M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne, calling it the 'most beautifully done fantasy game ever created' and saying Barker's world, Tékumel, was - except for Tolkien - completely without peer. Gygax concludes that the primary difference between the two (Tolkien and Barker) is that the latter "has neither had the opportunity to introduce and familiarise his Tékumel by means of popular works of fiction".1

In 1984, that opportunity came, as Barker's The Man of Gold was published by DAW, the first of five novels set in the universe. Harsan is a young novice in the temple of Thumis, the Lord of Wisdom. His speciality is linguistics, and at the start of the book, he's just about the wrap up his thesis - a study into one of Tékumel's long-dead languages (there are a lot of them - it is an old, old world, built on the ruins of a long of old, old cultures). His bucolic - if dull - monastic existence is interrupted by a messenger sent from the Tsolyani empire.

The Tsolyani are at war with the Kingdom of Yan Kor, and the latter are equipped with an ancient artifact, the tautly-named 'Weapon Without Answer'. Rumor has it, there may be an answer - at least, a crumbling manuscripts says so. But the Tsolyani need someone proficient in the Llyani language to work out the details. For example: Harsan.

Continue reading "The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker" »

Review Round-up: Knitters, Pirates, Cops, Princesses and Priests

TheBig SinA quick-fire round-up of eight recent holiday reads - including some vintage mysteries, a brand new fantasy, a YA that'll have you in stitches (fnar) and a saucy pirate romance. Most of these were recommendations via Twitter, so thank you all for sending them my way!

Prologue Books are one of my go-to publishers - whomever is putting together this list of out-of-print fiction is doing a cracking job. (Also, they use Amazon well, so I can find their books by searching Prologue Crime or Prologue Western, which is really helpful.) Anyway, that baseline of praise established... Jack Webb's The Big Sin (1952) might be one of my favourites so far. Webb's story ticks all the right narrative boxes: a cop versus a Big City machine, a man framed for murder, criminals being forced to choose between doing 'bad' and doing 'evil', the works. And, beneath it all, he underpins everything with a discussion of faith.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Knitters, Pirates, Cops, Princesses and Priests" »

Friday Five: 5 Comics About the Magic of Everyday Life

This week's Friday Five features five comics books that talk about magic. And life. And where the two intersect. Or don't.

Wicked + Divine

The Wicked + The Divine (Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Image, 2014/15)

This is absolutely a capital-G-Great comic, with stunning art and an exceptional high concept premise: perpetually reincarnated divine avatars, reappearing (briefly and wonderfully) every generation to inspire the mundane. The whole thing, see, is a metaphor for art, y'know - with the gods as creators, living their (literal) fifteen minutes of fame and bringing magic to the masses. And, in WicDiv (as the tumbleyoot say), that's hammered home in pretty much every conceivable way: the gods are artists, and use their holy platform to make everything from dance videos to long-form Medium-esque rants. 

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Comics About the Magic of Everyday Life" »

Review Round-up: The Collegium Chronicles and Unfaithful Wives

Two books/series with very little in common. Except, I suppose, I found them both kind of dissatisfying - Mercedes Lackey's Collegium Chronicles and Orrie Hitt's Unfaithful Wives.

RedoubtThe Collegium Chronicles (2008 - 2013) are five of the (counts rapidly) bajillion Valdemar novels by Mercedes Lackey. This particular sequence follows the young Mags as he's rescued from working as a mine slave and makes the startling transition to student at a magical university. His efforts to fit in, make friends, and adapt to his comfy new existence are occasionally interrupted by assassins.

If I sat down at wrote a list of 'stuff that bugged me in fantasy novels', the Collegium Chronicles would tick a dozen different items - from annoying dialects to poverty porn to magical horses to meandering descriptions of meaningless trivia (seriously, one of the books features a page-long list of pie fillings) to frequent, implausible deus ex machina to heavy-handed infodumping. Hell, there's even a shameless Quidditch knockoff.

And, good lord, the Chosen One-ness. Mags is lifted from obscurity because he's born magical and special - if he weren't, his plight (like those of his dozens of peers in the mines) would have gone completely unnoticed. As he grows, we learn that he's amazingly special in so many, many unique ways. Even at a magical university packed with magical snowflakes, he's the snowflakiest of all: the best at everything he does, possessed of a uniquely powerful magical talent, and, of course, descended from a mysterious bloodline. 

And yet...

Continue reading "Review Round-up: The Collegium Chronicles and Unfaithful Wives" »

Friday Five: 5 Best Deaths in Fantasy


Two things you need to know about this week's Friday Five:

1) It is written by Saad Hossein, author of Escape from Baghdad!which is easily one of the best books of 2015 - a brilliantly farcical romp that's like a contemporary fantasy version of Catch 22. Spectacular stuff. Saad also has a story in the brand-new The Apex Book of World SF 4, so, you know, there you go.

2) As you might guess from the title, ZOMG TEH SPOILERZ. Harry Potter, Sandman, the Mahabhrata, Malazan and the Broken Empire are all very much spoiled in this post. So, you know, click on, but don't say I didn't warn you. (If you're fussed about spoilers, just go mosey off yonder and get a head start on Escape! instead.)

And with no further ado, over to Saad...

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Best Deaths in Fantasy" »