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Bruce Sterling x Genre Fiction

As American SF lies in a reptilian torpor, its small, squishy cousin, Fantasy, creeps gecko-like across the bookstands. Dreaming of dragon-hood, Fantasy has puffed itself up with air like a Mojave chuckwalla. SF's collapse had formed a vacuum that forces Fantasy into a painful and explosive bloat. 

Short stories, crippled with the bends, expand into whole hideous trilogies as hollow as nickel gumballs. Even poor Stephen Donaldson, who struggles to atone for his literary crimes with wet hippy sincerity, has been forced to re-xerox his Tolkien pastiches and doubly insult the public. As Robert E. Howard spins in his grave, the Chryslers of publishing attach rotors to his head and feet and use him to power the presses. But the editors have eaten sour grapes and the writers' teeth are on edge. 

Fantasy, for too long the vapid playground of McCaffreyite unicorn-cuddlers and insect-eating SCA freaks, has some new and dangerous borderlands. Suddenly, perhaps out of sheer frustration, fantasy has movement and color again. It is the squirming movement of corruption and the bright sheen of decay.

- Bruce Sterling, Cheap Truth #1, c1980

Graphic Novel Round-Up: Shotguns & Sorcery

Stormwatch Team Achilles Stormwatch: Team Achilles (Wright / Portacio): In the shadow of the Authority, a new Stormwatch team comes together to handle superhuman menaces. With so many notable disasters stemming from superhuman intervention, this new (and aptly-named) team is created to be part of the 'checks and balances' system. Using technology and training, a half-dozen 'ordinary' people are able to take on Authority-level bad guys (and even the Authority themselves).

This core plot is a great idea. And Wright shows that he's well up to crafting the sort of complex, political storylines that make it work. The writing isn't perfect - the tone and language slips too frequently into action-movie-badass for my liking. Snappy, alpha male dialogue is a good place ot visit, but you don't want to live there. Similarly, the reliance on science magic to solve problems is a one-trick pony, and doesn't need to be repeated quite as frequently as it is.

The weakness is the art. Portacio drags the reader back into the less-than-halcyon early days of Image comics - big boobs, rippling pecs, awkward facial expressions, strangely padded masks and ginormous guns. Not quite Rob Leifeld, but skimming dangerously close.  Every half-dozen pages has a brilliant panel - a detailed facial expression, or some graphic rendering of a nifty explosion. But the rest is too often goofy - strangely imbecilic dead-eyed stares, atop anabolic wet dream physiques. 

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10 Tips for Book Signings

I sat down with a couple other book geeks and we brainstormed some suggestions for book-signing attendees.  These are meant to help everyone - fans, collectors, booksellers, authors & publishers. Having good manners keep the various attendees happy and being prepared lets everyone get the most out of their experience. (Good lord, I sound like a Disney After School special.)

Please leave your own tips, suggestions, corrections and stories in the comments!

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Underground Reading: The Man from P.I.G. by Harry Harrison

The Man from PIG The Man from P.I.G. (1968) is a strange little science fiction spoof. Harrison is always an entertaining author - especially on his home turf of the space opera. The Man from P.I.G. is no exception - a science-fiction adventure of the most bizarre kind.

A remote planet has problems with 'ghosts' - lethal ones. Expecting the space marines, the residents are disappointed when a bucolic hillbilly pig farmer arrives. However, as Harrison explains at well-relished length, the pigs are more than up for the task.

The book - a slightly extended version of a novella - is quick and slightly dirty. It follows a simple problem/solution format, with every problem solved by the judicious application of pig. Harrison is clever enough - and funny enough - to keep this going, but were The Man from PIG any longer, it would cease to be amusing. 

The overall plot, the mystery, its inevitable resolution and even the characters - they're all actually fairly meaningless, with twists and turns introduced at random by Harrison. The book is an extended joke about how pigs can solve any problem. A funny joke (fortunately) but not a particularly deep one. 

The book is particularly noteworthy for the John Schoenherr art. Known for his spectacular work on Dune and other SF classics, Schoenherr gives the... pigs... a hilarious sort of lofty majesty. It is an inspired pairing of artist and material, and elevates the book from an idiosyncratic novelty to something almost (but not quite) a must-have.

Tube journeys: 1

New Releases: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

Adamantine Palace The Adamantine Palace is the fast-paced first book from Stephen Deas, a newcomer to the fantasy scene. 

The world of the Palace is one filled with violence and tension. The land is split into huge swathes - the 'Sea of Salt' desert, the 'Sea of Storms' ocean and craggy mountains left, right and center. The people are equally violent and tense. 

A peculiar sort of armistice has been in place since the Dragons ruled the world - nine kings and queens glare at one another icily with an elected 'Speaker' binding them together.  

The Dragons themselves are still flapping about merrily. Once they were terrifying menaces, now they are semi-domesticated beasts of burden for the upper classes. Drugged from birth by a secretive guild of Alchemists, the Dragons are the ultimate in currency - giant fanged status symbols for the privileged few.

After several hundred pages of The Adamantine Palace, this is the sum total of the book's world building efforts. Normally, I come across quite opposed to fantasy world-building, but that's not the truth - I'm not anti-world-building, I'm pro-character-development. 

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Underground Reading: Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann

Ancient Appetites Ancient Appetites is a stand-alone young adult fantasy from Irish author Oison McGann. It is a completely bonkers adventure that defies logic in favor of fast-paced storytelling. It is also, as my grandmother would say, an 'absolute hoot'.

The setting, for no apparent reason, is a quasi-Victorian Ireland in which feral machines roam the wilderness and the aristocratic class is composed of semi-vampiric immortals. McGann doesn't bother with detailed world-building - bits just... appear... to support the story. It is well-done and consistently fun. 

When we heard McGann speak at Sci-Fi London, he told the crowd that he loved writing for young adults because 'the story is everything'. In Ancient Appetites, this comes through loud and clear. McGann packs his book with action - motorcycle chases, explosions and swordfights - from start to finish. 

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Bet no one calls him 'Kitty' now...

Sir Christopher Lee has been knighted.

As Wired points out, Christopher Lee is probably the King of all (Nerd) Franchises - what with appearing in Lord of the Rings,  James Bond, Star Wars and everything ever made by Hammer. (As well as Gremlins and Witch Mountain).

And that doesn't count appearances in film adaptations of Discworld and The Golden Compass, numerous movies by Tim Burton, TV adaptations of Gormenghast and video game franchises like Kingdom Hearts and EverQuest. Basically, name something geeky, and Sir Christopher has been there, adding his special sinister sauce into the mix.