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March 2012
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New Releases: Blackveil by Kristen Britain

Blackveil UKBlackveil (2011) is the fourth book in Kristen Britain's Green Rider series. Initially intended as a trilogy, the popular series has now extended to four books, with a fifth on the way.

The lead is Karigan G'ladheon, one of the kingdom's "Green Riders". Ostensibly a messenger service, they're much closer to Tolkien rangers - hooded badasses armed with magical abilities and moral certainty. Karigan, a young woman, has already proven herself an exceptional figure. Blackveil alludes to her earlier adventures in which she's quashed a rebellion, saved the king, saved the queen, saved the world and travelled through time. Many of the world's factions - good and evil - think that Karigan is really important. She's even earned the respect of the mysterious Eletians (immortal wood-dwelling poets with special bows, magic armor, unequaled grace and names like "Graelalea" and "Laurelyn").

Karigan's narrative is joined by a half dozen characters on equally innovative quests. Amberhill, a charming dilette nobleman-stroke-cat burger-stroke-vigilante is under some sort of magical compulsion, probably down to a ring he stole from enchanted pirates. Piecing together the backstory, it seems that a group of pirates have sailed the world for centuries, cursed by the same magical loot that gives them immortality. A good idea - Disney should make a film of it. 

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Friday Five: 15 of London's Museum Treasures

Friday Five"The Treasurehouse of London" was what people once called the British Museum. Well, that's the story, anyway. Whether or not people actually forewent referring to the BM by its brief, effective name in favor of the overstarched "treasurehouse of London", the fact remains that the British Museum is, absolutely, stuffed full of treasures. And so, for that matter, are the rest of London's brilliant complement of museums.

We're delighted to highlight a few of those treasures in today's Friday Five. Our guest this week is Esther Saxey, who has written about everything from Victorian ghosts to perverse vampires, and whose story "The Collection," in Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke, features a familiar, albeit sinister, overstuffed walrus.

Join us as we explore London's greatest, grimmest, goriest and grungiest goodies - and while you're here, why not share your favorite museums and exhibits in the comments? Please feel free to talk about the non-London, too - we know there's a world out there, even if we're a little leery of it.

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Underground Reading: Acacia by David Anthony Durham

AcaciaAcacia: The War with the Mein (2007) is the first volume of David Anthony Durham's epic fantasy trilogy. Acacia is set up as a by the numbers saga. A benevolent, if weak-willed, emperor oversees a collective of disparate kingdoms. His four young children each burn with their own ambitions. A mysterious overseas power plots death and destruction, while an aggrieved horde of barbarians plot to take the throne for themselves.

Mr. Durham even starts the book with a very traditional ticking clock. An assassin of the Mein, the northern barbarian hordes, is heading to the island of Acacia, the seat of the empire. His goal is clear: to assassinate the Emperor. To the reader's horror, the empire's lazy posterity has made an easy environment for the assassin's success. It quickly becomes apparent that the book is about when - not if - the Emperor will die.

The Emperor and his family lounge about, struggling with all the daily problems of being the dynastic descendants of continent-spanning despots. The oldest son, Aliver, craves power and adventure. Corinn, the beautiful daughter, looks for true love. Mena, the wise daughter, just cares about her father and siblings. All so touching, so sweet, and so unbelievably misguided. While they fiddle about with lessons and stories, disaster marches inexorably closer to them. 

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The David Gemmell Legend Award Shortlists

The Heroes UKOne of the many awards or shortlists announced this past weekend was the David Gemmell Legend Award, the relatively new, crowd-voted award for epic fantasy. We've been critical in the past, but new year, new leaf. We voted and everything.

The DGLA, as explained to us at EasterCon, is meant to be a celebration of a particular type of fantasy - one that is generally passed over by more critical awards. Thus the emphasis on the popular vote, an involved fan community and the lavish gala. And, when it comes down to it, the DGLA is meant to be a fun celebration of a fun subsection of fantasy. Cool stuff. 

However, epic fantasy isn't unappreciated by other awards. Of the shortlists so far this year, George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons is on the Hugos, Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves was up for The Kitschies' Golden Tentacle and, after much discussion at EasterCon, some of the most critical members of the SF community agreed that Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes was the best fantasy of the year in the unofficial "Fantasy Clarkes". (Hell, Sheri S. Tepper's The Waters Rising is an epic fantasy that even made it onto the official Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, but that's a different kettle of fish.)

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Friday Five: 15 Obscure Telefantasy Shows

Friday FiveThis Friday's battle moves into a different arena - television. And who better to lead the discussion of obscure television shows than Paul Cornell? As well as his work in comics and books, Mr. Cornell wrote some of our favorite episodes of Doctor Who (plus many, many other shows). At this very moment (well, depending on the moment), he's the Guest of Honour at EasterCon, so we're extra-delighted at his presence on the blog today.

Magnus Anderson and Rebecca Levene step into the fray this week. Bex is a Pornokitsch regular (and Kitschies judge and Stories of the Smoke contributor). Magnus is one of our frequent guests (and Stories of the Apocalypse contributor), and can also be heard at EasterCon, where he's speaking on games-related panels this evening (8pm) and Monday at noon.

Enough foreplay, let's flip on the television, shall we?


So I'm trying hard not to be that "TV and comics guy"; I've had all those short stories published, I've got a novel coming out this year. But what do I do when Zack and Miri Porno ask me to write one of their "Friday Fives"? I leap straight for the visual. Because obscure telefantasy is one of my favourite things in the world. I find it restful to watch something from before there were production values. It won't taunt me with my own lack of televisual triumph. I can luxuriate in the slow boil, well, more of a simmer really, of a Pathfinders or a Doomwatch while doing other things, because the characters onscreen will wait for me, and resume talking about the same bit of plot when I get back.

When I was growing up, the SF canon, in movies and TV, was so limited that one assumed that, through late night screenings on BBC2, one might one day actually see it all. Said canon was described in loving detail, with always the same stock photos, in books like Fantastic Television, or The TV Times Encyclopaedia of TV Science Fiction, which listed everything, full stop. This was before special effects became cheap enough that whole channels devoted to landfill telefantasy opened up, producing series that, well... Earth: Final Conflict, okay? 

I've tried hard to present here five shows which most people won't have in their DVD collection, but of course one person's obscure is another's Come Back Mrs Noah Appreciation Society. 

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Stories of the Smoke - Launch Party

Stories of the Smoke Lauren - Anne WalrusThanks to everyone who came out to the Betsey Trotwood last night to support the launch of Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke. We had a full house (or basement, as the case may be) of readers, authors and other assorted animals.

We're pleased to say that the art auction raised over £300 for English PEN - thanks to everyone for bidding so generously and, of course, to Gary Northfield for donating his work. We're glad that the various illustrations are off to loving homes (in a few cases, it seems that the authors bought the pictures for their own story, which is especially cool).

The evening had a host of special guests in the form of Cooey the Pigeon and friends. The pub was packed with fuzzy pigeons (and they seem to have fluttered into most of the evening's photos) courtesy of Lauren O'Farrell (author of Knit the City and Stitch London). [Psst: Lauren is a special secret mystery guest at Gail Carriger's Steampunk Soiree on Monday night - if you like your steampunk surrounded by wooly adorability and knitted squid, this is your chance.]

The good news (depending on where you're sitting) is that we're sold out of Stories of the Smoke in hardcover. The better news: there are an infinite number of copies waiting to be purchased as eBooks. Smoke is a mere £3.99 (for 17 amazing, original stories) and Fire is a whopping 80p. (Americans, you're at $4.99 and .99 - not too shabby, eh?).

Lots of photos up here already, and hopefully more to come! Plus, a video of Stories of the Apocalypse's Scott Andrews and Sophia McDougall having a walrus duel


Photo by Lauren O'Farrell (handy, isn't she?)

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke and Fire - Out now!

(That's actually two different titles up there... confusing, eh?)

We're proud to say that our latest anthology, Stories of the Smoke is officially out now. Stories of the Smoke includes 17 original science fiction and fantasy tales about London, all inspired by Charles Dickens. It is - if you'll forgive us for bragging - an absolute corker. The contributors come from all over the world and range from celebrated award-winners to cracking debut voices. London's many nooks and crannies are very thoroughly explored, in styles gory, ghostly, dreamy and even cyberpunky. 

Today also marks the release of Fire - an electronic chapbook containing three short-short stories from Harry Markov, Tom Loock and Oz Vance. Anne explains the origin of Fire in her introduction, but essentially, these are three kickass stories that really leapt out at us. They may not be explicitly London-y, but they were just too good not to print.

A portion of the proceeds from all sales of Smoke and Fire goes to English PEN. The rest of the proceeds goes to the authors, so, hey, buy early and often. 

You can find them here:

Stories of the Smoke (Amazon US)
Stories of the Smoke (Amazon UK)

Fire (Amazon US)
Fire (Amazon UK)

More on Stories of the Smoke... 
More on Fire... 

A huge thanks to all the contributors for their hard work and patience, Christopher Fowler for his amazing introduction, Gary Northfield for his cracking artwork, Gav o' Handebooks for the digital magic and the kind people at English PEN for making the world a better place.

Hustle & Bustlepunk [Competition Time!]

3GailCarrigerBlackWe're a wee bit overexcited that Gail Carriger (Gail Carriger!) is making a UK appearance this weekend. To celebrate the ouevre of the parasol-wielding transatlantic steampunk legend, we thought we'd throw a little virtual welcoming party.

The challenge: Write a steampunk scene  - no more than 100 words, please -  in the comments.

The added challenge: We want to delight Ms. Carriger, so be sure to throw in some of her favourite things - cephalopods, teapots, vampires, amazing hats, parasols (obviously), archeology, werewolves, rustling dresses, London society, good manners and general adorability. (The occasional dash of sauciness is also more than welcome.) 

The competition ends on Monday at noon (UK time). The winners, as chosen by the whimsy of the judges, will receive wonderfully steampunky prizes, which include personalised copies of TimelessMs. Carriger's newest Parasol Protectorate book and lovingly-doodled copies of Doctor Geof's Steampunk Literary Review. Anyone can enter, but the winners must be based in the UK. (Sorry.)

Gail Carriger is gallivanting around EasterCon all weekend (tickets are sold out, but if you're going, be sure to drop by her panels) and is hostess at the Steampunk Soiree at Foyles on Monday night (see their site for details and tickets).


Author photo by Vanessa Applegate, via

Underground Reading: The Blue Kimono Kill by Walt Sheldon

Blue Kimono KillWalt Sheldon was a pulp staple, with dozens of published crime and adventure stories in the 1950's and 1960's. His novel output, both under his own name and various pseudonyms (Shelly Walters, Shel Walker, etc), was also impressive. The Blue Kimono Kill (1965) was Mr. Sheldon's first novel published under his own name.

The Blue Kimono Kill introduces the reader to Dr. Robert Marlin - anthropologist on loan to the US government. The book opens with his arrival in Tokyo on business. Marlin is ostensibly researching one of his theories, and using the bored housewives of US soldiers as subject matter. The government is keen to make sure morale stays high for the military men and Marlin's equally keen to get some work done. At least, he thinks he is. It doesn't take long for Marlin to get bored. The military wives are a desperate, lonely lot, with straying husbands and eager appetites. Although in most circumstances, he'd love to do some further "research" (nudgity wink wink leer), the recurring theme of debauchery is wearing him down.

While drinking his troubles away at the bar, Marlin remembers an old war buddy - Master Sergeant Harry Crowell. Crowell saved Marlin's life a time or two in Korea, although the two have drifted out of touch since then. Marlin calls on Crowell... only to learn that his friend has been brutally murdered in a back alley. Worse yet, Crowell was carrying a load of uncut heroin at the time. A bit of hanky-panky is standard operating procedure, but Crowell seems to have been a major dealer. Crowell's not just dead, he's an embarrassment, and his widow, Masako, is left without husband or pension.

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The Weeks that Were

A quick recap of the last two weeks, plus a reminder of what's ahead.

First, the reviews:

That's a short list, but, as a challenge, we also reviewed thirty books in thirty words each (including, with slight prescience, Christopher Priest's The Islanders). 

Monsters and Mullets also looked at the jimmerslammer bulltardery of Predator (1987), and found it (surprisingly) awesome...

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