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New Releases: Swords and Dark Magic (edited by Strahan & Anders)

Swords and Dark Magic Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery may be the first anthology I've actually eagerly anticipated since... I'm not sure. Probably The Last Dangerous Visions. Not that I have any particular objection to short stories, I just very rarely find a collection of them that intrigues me enough to to offset the inevitable crap and/or poetry. 

Swords and Dark Magic, however, pushed all the right buttons. Abercrombie, Lynch and Parker in one place? I'd crawl over broken glass to get there. And the theme - the stunning resurgence of Howardian pulp fiction? You could lace said glass with strychnine, and still get me a-crawling.

So, keeping my utterly reasonable expectations in mind, how did Swords and Dark Magic fare?

Well, not too badly. In a rare feat of anthologising, there wasn't a single story I skipped, and, possibly more importantly, there are several that I really look forward to revisiting. There were some pleasant surprises - and some unpleasant ones - as well as a few interesting themes that I'll get to later on.

Scott Lynch definitely stole the show with "In the Stacks". Four sorcerous students must return books to the university library - a surprisingly dangerous adventure. A brilliant concept, a demonstration that characters can be built in a small space and some delicious storytelling. 

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About Babylon Steel

In case you missed it, earlier this week, Solaris acquired Babylon Steel from debut author Gaie Sebold. Steel is an ex-swordswoman just trying to run her business in the city Scalentine.

What's her business? She runs the best brothel in town.

Being the curious sort, we did a rare bit of reporting and reached out to Solaris editor Jonathan Oliver for a quick comment:

"One thing that strikes me about fantasy is how old-school and medieval sexual politics often are in the novels. Obviously if you're using a medieval social structure, then some of this is going to happen anyway. But, let's not forget that all important word, fantasy. You can do anything. Gaie is one of the few writers around who is talking sensibly and inventively and compassionately about sex and sexual politics. Couple this with a kick-ass fantasy story involving Gods and monsters and journeying through many planes of reality, and you have a fresh and original work. Very pleased to have Gaie on the list."

There you go. From the horse's mouth: gods, monsters and sexual politics, all coming in late 2011.

Underground Reading: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan Howard

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (2009) is an amusing, folklorish tale from Jonathan Howard.

Cabal is, unsuprisingly, a necromancer. He's traded his soul for the power of life and death, but now he's discovered that his soulless state is impacting his (otherwise rigorous) experimentation. Cabal is exactly the sort of meticulous proto-scientific sort that can't stand this sort of unpredictable involvement in his research. Therefore, he needs his soul back.

Satan, ever up for a good time, is willing to wager. If Cabal can get 100 souls in the next year, the Devil will return the original (slightly worn for wear). Hell, being an accommodating sort of archfiend, Satan will even chuck in the means of soul-gathering: a carnival.

Cabal knows that the Devil will cheat, but any chance is better than none, and the narcissistic necromancer has a very high opinion of his own cunning.

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Underground Reading: The Scarlet Ruse by John D. MacDonald

The Scarlet Ruse and Two Others The Scarlet Ruse (1972) drags Travis McGee into the not-so-seedy world of postage stamps. Meyer's old friend Hersh is an expert dealer, collecting rarities for a half-dozen clients on a percentage basis. Business is good, but Hirsh is in a pickle.

It seems that the collection for one client, a Mr Frank Sprenger, has gone missing. Not only is Hirsh responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Sprenger's stamps, but Sprenger is the sort that might take Hirsh's ears and fingers as well. Don't trade stamps with the mob, people - it'll only backfire in the end.

At the start this is almost the McGee version of a traditional cozy. Travis invites himself over, sips tea with Hirsh and his employees, dispenses familial advice and, being Travis, starts shagging someone grossly inappropriate. Things, however, heat up. The latter half of the book involves a complicated "running away" sort of operation. Travis and his lady-lust zipping through the high seas, with a boat of irritated goons chasing after them.

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Guest Post: The League of Extraordinary Booksellers by Rich Warren

[Editor's Note: This week's guest post is from Rich, long-time friend and full-time bookseller. We've asked Rich to drop in occasionally to talk about genre life from the dealer's point of view. We're good at the looting, but know nothing about where the treasure comes from...]

Pile-of-books After taking a break from the evils of corporate book selling for a year, I hope to return to the trade in November with my own business selling Fantasy and Science Fiction.

It is a sad trait among Booksellers that we really can't stay away, it's a disease. I recently met a pediatrician, a mechanic, and a divorce lawyer, who all have one thing in common, they can't stop selling books.

I thought I'd take a look at my top 10 Legendary Science Fiction and Fantasy Booksellers.

#1: L. W. Currey 

I hope never to go to Currey's warehouse, I wouldn't be able to leave, not with the books the man has there. This is where you go if you need the best available copy of something on the planet. This is where you go if you need that unpublished sheaf of H. P. Lovecraft letters. This is where you go if you want an empty bank account, beacause quality doesn't come cheap.

L. W. Currey wrote the book - no, really, he did. Currey wrote 'Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of first printings of their fiction and selected nonfiction' which is a standard reference work (updated onto CD-ROM in 2002).

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"So maybe it's possible that this stupid general anxiety really is beginning to peel away under the influence of these little pills. That would be beyond nice... I suppose you'll all know soon enough. For now, fingers crossed." -- Scott Lynch, on fighting depression.

It probably goes without saying, but we're behind him all the way.

Underground Reading: A Tan and Sandy Silence by John D. MacDonald

A Tan and Sandy Silence The 13th McGee takes up right where its predecessor stops: with Travis caught in the midst of a funk.

Travis is in one of his longer relationships, an extended fling with Lady Gillian Brent-Archer. A vastly wealthy, ageless widow, Lady Gillian is pushing Travis to quit his nomadic life and join her in the islands. Travis, starting to worry about his own mortality, is tempted - but he's crippled with the fear of being a "kept man" .

The whole situation adds up to a grumpy Travis. He's fairly rude to Lady Gillian, grumpy with Meyer and, frankly, a little off his game. When an old acquaintance, Harry Broll, shows up and starts shooting at Travis, our hero is left with a real case of self-doubt. Not only did Broll show up for no reason (searching for a wife that Travis hasn't seen in years), but McGee's Spidey-Sense normally warns him before he enters a situation in which he's about to be shot at.

He's old. He's slowing down. He can't trust his instincts. And some rich widow wants to kidnap him for a life of luxury. Poor Travis.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: A Tan and Sandy Silence by John D. MacDonald" »

Reasoning with Vampires

We all love Stephenie Meyer here at Pornokitsch. OMGsrsly, we just can't get enough of that hot emo vampire moping. At weekends, we all dress up as Edmund and Stella and the werewolfy one... 

Obviously, we'd all rather actually die than claim to have even a passing appreciation for the Twilight books. We could explain why the novels - beyond even their shockingly messed up sexual politics - should never have seen the light of day but that would take a very, very long time. Not to worry, Reasoning With Vampires has got our backs. 

This blog is a doorway into a refreshing world where intelligence, good writing and quality in publishing really matter. So, not Meyer's world. And the blog doesn't display just substance, but style, too. Every bite-sized critique of the books looks a little like this:


The site is particularly entertaining on the subject of Meyer's overuse of commas - and there's a delicious streak of dislike aimed towards Bella, the perma-grumpy star of the show...


I love it. You'll most likely love it, too. Twihards can go cry into their cocoa. Click on the link above or either of the images and prepare to lose a few hours of your life in literate bliss.