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Friday Five: 5 Books That Read Like (Tabletop) Games

Science_Fiction_Hobby_Games_coverOne of the most fascinating books I've read lately has been Neal Tringham's Science Fiction Hobby Games. Released this May, Mr. Tringham has written an astounding survey of the world of science fiction roleplaying, tabletop, card, postal, board and war games - not just a history of the field, but an exhaustive review and analysis of all the most important games.

From Shadowrun to d20, Fighting Fantasy to Gamma World, Heroclix, Illuminati and RoboRally... no science fictional gaming stone is left ungathered. The stories about the games are fascinating, as is the careful thought about why they work (and in some cases, why they don't). 

Without further ado, I'm delighted to present Mr. Tringham's guest post on a related topic (and one very dear to my heart) - five books that read like games...


Novels licensed from games, like those spun off from films and tv series, have a poor reputation. While this view has become something of a cliché, it is a stereotype for a reason; despite such honourable exceptions as Ian Watson's Inquisitor or Kim Newman's Drachenfels, most game tie-ins are poorly executed and somewhat formulaic by the standards of the wider sf and fantasy genres. More interesting, perhaps, are the books which have been influenced by games, or whose milieux echo the fantastical universes created by the more original game designers. Here are five such works which were inspired by, or seem to be cognates of, tabletop games played with pen and paper or miniature figures.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Books That Read Like (Tabletop) Games" »


The Kitschies: The First 60 Days

20000_squid_Nautilus_viewbayThe Kitschies have been open for submissions since early May, and the first two months have been busy ones.

On the literary side (Red and Golden Tentacles), the prize already has 63 books for consideration. Of these 63:

  • 15 are debuts
  • 6 are books in translation
  • 26 imprints are represented (with "self-published" counted as a single imprint)

(It is worth noting that some of these books have been submitted by publishers, but not yet received by the judges.)

We made a couple of small tweaks to the submissions procedure this year, both of which have had slightly surprising results:

  • We no longer require that publishers submit physical copies for consideration. 16 of our submissions so far have arrived as ebooks. (We were expecting more.)
  • In the past, all books would be automatically considered for the Cover Art category, but this year the Inky Tentacle has its own submissions process - with 35 books received. (This year, it seems likely that we will have more literary submissions than artistic ones for the first time.)

From my purely administrative point of view, I'm quite pleased with the way things are shaping up. Although I don't have comparable numbers from previous years, it does feel like we're ahead of where we normally are at this point in the year - at least, in terms of in books received, books expected and diversity of publishers.

Continue reading "The Kitschies: The First 60 Days" »


Review Round-up: 7 x Prologue Books

Prologue Books. Brilliance - I know nothing about them other than it seems a dedicated effort to bring back everything from Gold Medal. And being that Gold Medal was the epitome of publishing, I am 100% ok with that. [No, seriously - they were. Gutsy, courageous, commercial and inventive, brilliant authors, edgy topics, glorious covers - best publisher ever. DISCUSS.]

Anyway, I've been rather systematically looting their selection of ebooks, and here are some quick reviews of what I've read to date. 

NightraiderMike Barry's Lone Wolf: Night Raider. Ok, the one loser of the lot. I was hoping for the urban crime equivalent of George Gilman's Edge series, and, well, close, but no cigar. Wulff is an ex-cop, a vigilante who knows how the system works - and how it doesn't. He's a stone-cold killer, a man with nothing to live for, a man who is already dead, a man who... blah blah blah. Wulff is a man on edge who talks a lot about how he's a man on the edge. Then he shoots people. Repeat.

As an "analysis of grimdark" (because spanning genres is fun), Night Raider is an intriguing and educational failure. Mr. Barry flips back and forth from Wulff's narrative to those of his victims, but he never tries to humanise the latter. Evil is either pathetic or dastardly, and Wulff is so boringly emo - prone to macho diatribes about how he's already a man that's looked into the abyss, still on the damn edge, etc. etc. If Mr. Barry had tried to make the evil-doers a little more sympathetic, and Wulff a bit more "show don't tell", the result would've been infinitely better. Instead, this is murder-porn. Oh, and riddled with racism. Above and beyond the era, I'm afraid. I suspect it might be lowest-common denominator pandering rather than any sort of coherently insidious subtext, but the result is still the same.

Gil Brewer's The Brat. I've had a mixed relationship with Gil Brewer's books and The Brat encompasses both the good and the bad. Lee Sullivan wakes up and discovers he's knee-deep in a frame-up. Worse yet, his his wife, Evis, is behind the scheme. No mucking about with gradual tension: we begin with a bang. Lee has to chase down his wife, figure out where he (or she) went wrong, and then clear his name. Evis is, of course, evil/sex on legs. She's also poor - and from swamp country, no less. (Mental note: figure out what's up with the horrendous classism against working class white folks from the squishier parts of America, pulp fiction is rife with the stuff - it has to be tied in with something going on at the time.)

Anyway, Evis is good, unclean fun, but Mr. Brewer sort of wedges in a Good Girl (Evis' younger sister, no less), who is not only not-credible but also not-fun. Good Girl wanders around pining after Lee and occasionally acting as a deus ex machina, she's a damp squib all the way around. The result? A mixed bag. Brewer does slimy, slinking oh-so-Bad Girl incredibly well, but the angelic counterpart is a bore.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: 7 x Prologue Books" »


Upgrading, Downgrading and Giving Away

The PeddlerLatest books in:

Richard S. Prather's The Peddler - a funny one. This is Hard Case Crime #27. I'm looking ahead and plugging the gaps in the collection as I meander through my (ostensibly) weekly reviews, and this was one I'm missing. The weird thing? (Perhaps to me.) I've been trying to collect all the Hard Case crime reprints as their originals. In this case, I've got the Gold Medal edition around, but now feel the need to make sure I've got the reprint so it matches all the others. Like the inmates have taken over the asylum, right. (Forbidden Planet)

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane - as above I don't need a collectible copy - I've got a collectible copy. What I need is a reading copy. So why'd I get a signed one and not, say, an ebook or something?

I can't defend my own actions, honestly. I've actually got a Gaiman collection that I'd describe as "good" (not "great"). He's one of those authors where you can do a solid job getting signed first editions, comics, a few rarer small press things, etc. pretty easily. But the real collectors are out there getting the $1,000 signed limited editions of his wedding vows, bound in manticore. A little discouraging, but good for perspective. (Forbidden Planet)

Anne and I got E.J. Swift to sign Osiris for us as well. Because that's one of the perks of being an editor: captive authors.

Continue reading "Upgrading, Downgrading and Giving Away" »


Why The Terminator's Sarah Connor is the Best Sarah Connor

Sarah ConnorI know Sarah Connor tops everyone's list of hardcore badass female characters, but they're usually referring to T2 Sarah Connor, or the Sarah Connor Chronicles Sarah Connor. And that Sarah Connor is totally, 100% an amazing hardcore badass character.

But for my money the most amazing Sarah Connor is the Sarah Connor of The Terminator - the nice, normal, soft young woman who is confronted with an unbelievable, extraordinary situation, a situation in which she is hunted by a serial killer who turns out to be a robot from the future who will literally kill anyone and everyone between itself and her, for this totally insane reason: she might someday have a kid who'll start a war against the future robot overlords. 

And the only thing standing between her and this literally unstoppable killing machine is a guy who a) claims to be from the future, b) clearly has terrible PTSD, c) reveals that he's been in love with her for essentially his entire adult life, and d) is wearing smelly hobo pants.

Oh, but there’s one other thing standing between Sarah Connor and certain death, and that thing is Sarah Connor. Because Sarah Connor is a total hardcore badass. Even here, where she’s soft and pretty and wholly unprepared for being hunted by a robot programmed to kill her and everyone standing between it and her, Sarah Connor is a total hardcore badass.

Continue reading "Why The Terminator's Sarah Connor is the Best Sarah Connor" »


The Lowest Heaven - Extra Credit Reading

OsirisIf you like The Lowest Heaven, why not try more stories from the anthology's amazing contributors?

Sophia McDougall ("Golden Apple"): Her Mars Evacuees series starts in 2014, but you can find more of Sophia's short work in, amongst other places, Dark Currents and Magic. Plus her Romanitas trilogy is great for more character-focused SF. (Her story for Jurassic London, "Not the End of the World" appeared in Stories of the Apocalypse and as a separate novelette. Both are out of print, but if you can find one... grab it!)

Alastair Reynolds ("A Map of Mercury"): Where to start with one of the biggest names in British SF? Revelation Space is probably the best place, his first novel and one of the greatest works of modern British space opera. Rumor has it, it will shortly be available as as Gollancz Masterwork. Mr Reynolds' new series, Poseidon's Children, is another good entry point: Blue Remembered Earth is a gorgeous tour of the Solar System in its own right.

Archie Black ("Ashen Light"): Archie's short fiction has appeared in our Apocalypse and Smoke (both out of print), as well as several of our chapbooks (all free!) but if you liked her approach to the literary murder mystery, "4.52 to Pandemonium" (in A Town Called Pandemonium) is a good next step.

Maria Dahvana Headley ("The Krakatoan"): Her novel, Queen of Kings, is a blast (especially when you contrast it to Maria's story in the upcoming The Book of the Dead), but Maria's also had a lot of short fiction published - worth checking out issues of Lightspeed in particular. Neil Gaiman grabs the headlines, but Maria co-edited and contributed to the gorgeous Unnatural Creatures anthology, a great collection for a charitable cause.

Continue reading "The Lowest Heaven - Extra Credit Reading" »


Announcing... Pandemonium: Ash

Jurassic LondonJurassic London are delighted to announce the explosive return to the world of Pandemonium. A Town Called Pandemonium introduced readers to a mysterious town in the American West. 1853 shared glimpses of the rest of the world, in that same fateful year.

Ash, coming in November, continues exploring the world of Pandemonium, thirty years later. In 1883, the great volcano Krakatoa exploded and shook the Earth. The stories in this chapbook explore what happened in the days that followed - days of darkness, shadow and, of course... ash

Pandemonium: Ash includes six original stories:

  • "Delft" by Richard de Nooy
  • "I Dreamt I Held Her Hand" by Nerine Dorman
  • "Wilderness of Duidain" by Dan Green
  • "The Raft" by Charlie Human
  • "Under the Sign of the Cockatrice" by Timothy J. Jarvis
  • "Waves" by Lavie Tidhar

Ash will be published this November as part of Jurassic London's series of digital chapbooks. .

For more information:

Ash (November 2013)

A Town Called Pandemonium (Out now)

1853 (Out now)


New Releases: The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

Last BanquetThe Last Banquet, out this week from Canongate, is Jonathan ("Jon Courtenay") Grimwood's first foray outside of the speculative arena. The result is, no pun intended, suitably fantastic. Despite the disconcertingly direct prose, The Last Banquet is a complex feast, with a lot to say about itself. (Yes, I mixed metaphors.)

The story - an autobiography - begins in 1723. Jean-Marie d'Aumont is a young boy, sitting by a dung heap and eating beetles. He is an aristocrat and an orphan, and his family lands (such as they are) have been looted by local villagers. Were it not for the good fortune of a passing vicomte, Jean-Marie would have met a grisly (or perhaps merely pathetic) end. As it is, the young boy is distressed to be taken away from his wriggly snacks - and suitably consoled with his first taste of blue cheese.

The vicomte takes Jean-Marie under his wing, at least, for long enough to deposit him at a military academy for the upper crust. There, Jean-Marie makes his first friends, finds his first love, comes of age, saves his first life and, perhaps most importantly, continues to nibble on everything in sight. For, no matter how he's swept up by adolescence and society, Jean-Marie remains firmly anchored to his culinary curiosity. (Better metaphor!) He is determined to taste everything

With adulthood, Jean-Marie's life becomes no less complicated. France is on the verge of a crisis - her power in Europe is on the wane, and, within her borders, the king and nobles maintain an increasingly tenuous grasp on power. Jean-Marie, often against his will, is caught up in plans great, devious and occasionally awe-inspiring - but, at the same time, he rises above it all. For whatever his obligations to family, state and friends, his quest remains the same: to understand flavour.

Continue reading "New Releases: The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood" »


The Lowest Heaven - Out now!

Cover - the lowest heavenLaunch day!

There's a tendency to bust out the Oscar speech, but I'll save that for the third pint. Suffice it to say, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the authors, Joey Hi-Fi, the National Maritime Museum & Royal Observatory Greenwich, handebooks.com, Joey Hi-Fi again and a zillion other wonderful people for their sharing, reading, shouting, helping and general amazeballishness. 

So, hey - we're partying at Forbidden Planet tonight! Come by and join us (and, more importantly, many of the authors) at London's geekiest megastore. We'll be there from 6 pm to 7 pm, signing, shmoozing and generally being underfoot. 

The Lowest Heaven is a new anthology of contemporary science fiction published to coincide with Visions of the Universe, a major exhibition of space imagery at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. 

Each story in The Lowest Heaven is themed around a body in the Solar System, from the Sun to Halley's Comet. The stories are illustrated with photographs and artwork selected from the archives of the Royal Observatory, while the book's cover and overall design are the work of award-winning South African illustrator Joey Hi-Fi.

The contributors include Sophia McDougall, Alastair Reynolds, Archie Black, Maria Dahvana Headley, Adam Roberts, Simon Morden, E.J. Swift, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Mark Charan Newton, Kaaron Warren, Lavie Tidhar, Esther Saxey, David Bryher, S.L. Grey, Kameron Hurley, Matt Jones and James Smythe, plus an introduction from Marek Kuluka, the Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Where to buy it:

Paperback (£9.99 / $14.95): 

 Forbidden Planet [Signed!] <-- it is Independent Booksellers Week, start here!
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Plus, while you're in Greenwich, admiring Visions of the Universe, you can pick up a copy at the National Maritime Museum!

Kindle / Kobo (£4.99 / $7.49):

Kindle (UK)
Kindle (US)
Kobo

Have some reviews:

"Visually beautiful with an incredibly high quality of fiction. Highly recommended." - The List

"A perfect snapshot of the the state of current science fiction.... There's a lot to relish here, a lot to enjoy, and nothing that doesn't display both thought and talent." - ARC

"The tales act as a portrait of the different voices and approaches in today's SF, as well as proving the genre hasn't run out of ways to explore our dreams" - SFX

"This back and forth between the actual and the fantastic underpins The Lowest Heaven's exploration of space, both as we know it and as we can only imagine it.... There can be no questioning the value of this artful anthology: it's as inspiring as it is inspired." - Tor.com

"The whimsical, the hard-core science stories and the outright strange; overall it is a well-crafted ensemble and the solar system theme never seems like a constraint... Starburst has no hesitation in recommending it to any serious reader of science fiction." - Starburst Magazine

"What stories. What imagination. What tales of wonder.... This idiosyncratic collection that fits together, somehow, like family, only without the awkward holiday dinners. Make it a point to get this ebook." - 100 Word Reviews

And, you know, stuff:

An interview with cover artist Joey Hi-Fi about his inspiration, with the Collections Blog of the Royal Museums Greenwich

J for Jetpack hosted a series of interviews with many of the anthology's contributors, including Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Kameron Hurley and Joey Hi-Fi.

An in-depth look at the cover art with A Dribble of Ink

[Update - 3 July: Thanks to everyone who came to last night's signing at Forbidden Planet! There were a lot of pre-orders, which made us all sorts of proud - thank you! If you haven't ordered your copy, there are still a few signed & bookplated paperbacks left!]

[Update - 4 July: We're giving away two copies over on Goodreads (UK only, I'm afraid) - enter now for a chance to win.]