Thursday, 31 March 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, April 2011

These events are from the science fiction & fantasy calendar I've started.  If you have an event that's not listed, email me and I'll put it on the calendar.  While I try to get the details correct, always check the links to confirm event information. And I'll be updating this post as I learn of more events.

Sunday April 3

Kelley Armstrong Reading from her young adult novel The Gathering.
Where: Indigo Yorkdale, 3401 Dufferin, Toronto, chapters.indigo.ca
When: 2 pm
Admission: Free

Friday April 8

Meet Sci-Fi Author Glenn Grant
Where: Lillian H. Smith Library (239 College St), Merril Collection
When: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Canadian sci-fi writer Glenn Grant - who is also the co-editor of the Canadian science fiction anthology series Northern Stars - reads from his novel and answers questions about submitting work to anthologies.

Friday April 8 - Sunday April 10

Ad Astra Conference
Where: Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites (1250 Eglington Ave. East)
When: Friday 5 pm - 12 am, Saturday 10 am - 12 am, Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
Cost: $30/day Friday and Sunday, $50/day Saturday, $70 weekend + HST

Saturday April 9 - Sunday 10

Toronto ComiCon (Note, this is not the Wizard's World Comic Con, which was in March)
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre (North Building) 255 Front Street. West  (*Note: their site says North Building, the MTCC site says South Building)
When: Saturday 11 - 6 pm, Sunday 11 - 5 pm
Admission is FREE on both days. No coupons required! 

Monday April 11

TINARS PRESENTS CHIZINE'S BLACKJACK, LOST MYTHS AND OTHER FANTASIES LAUNCH
Where: The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom (1214 Queen Street West)
When: 7 - 10 pm (doors open at 7, event starts at 7:30)
Cost: $5 or Free with book purchase
Dark genre fiction authors Gemma Files, Claude Lalumière, Brent Hayward and David Nickle become dealers in a fans vs. authors Blackjack game to launch new ChiZine publications A Rope of Thorns, The Door to Lost Pages, The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter, and Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. Enjoy a performance of “Lost Myths” as Claude Lalumière reads against a soundscape composed and performed by Matthew Burton aka DJ Komodo accompanied by artwork by Rupert Bottenberg.

Tuesday April 12

Chiaroscuro Reading Series: The Robs Take Toronto (Robert Shearman, Robert-Paul Weston & Robert Priest)
Where: Augusta House (152 Augusta Avenue, Toronto)
When:8 - 11 pm

Thursday April 28 - Sunday May 1

Globe and Mail Open House Festival
Writers and thinkers including Izzeldin Abuelaish, Jim Bryson, Karen Armstrong and Jane Urquhart come together for readings and discussions.
Benefit for: Child Soldiers Initiative/Frontier College/Toronto Public Library
Where: multiple locations
When: varies by talk
Cost: $15/talk, $100 Salon Passes for all talks

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

F. Paul Wilson to do Repairman Jack Graphic Novels

From the Sea Lion Books press release:

Sea Lion Books announces the acquisition of the comic book and graphic novel rights to F. Paul Wilson’s young adult novels Jack: Secret Histories, Jack: Secret Circles and Jack: Secret Vengeance. The books form a prequel trilogy to the New York Times bestselling author’s Repairman Jack novels, and not only explore the background of the adventurous problem solver, but also provide clues to the origins of the “Secret History of the World” that forms the nexus of the Repairman Jack universe. Scripted by Wilson himself, the adaptations will feature new material not found in the novels.
I haven't read all of the Repairman Jack novels, but I'll be rereading the first one (The Tomb) again soon, and remember the series being quite well written. If you want to know more about Jack's past, here's your chance.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Book Review: Meridian by Amber Kizer

Pros: interesting premise, fast paced
Cons: unrealistic motivations, obvious plot twists
For Parents: nothing to worry about in this book

Meridian is used to things dying around her: insects and animals do it all the time.  She's always felt pain no doctors could treat.  When she witnesses a car crash on her 16th birthday, the pain she feels is intense - and she wasn't even injured.

Her parents send her off to her great aunt's to learn how to be a fenestra, a window for souls to pass through so they can go to heaven/nirvana.

It's an interesting premise and the light romance doesn't hurt.  I found the opening had too many pop references for my taste (since I generally don't get them) and some of the character's motivations are bizarre.  Meridian's mother wants her to have as long a childhood as possible so she doesn't explain anything to Meridian about who she is and why things keep dying around her.  This leaves Meridian completely unprepared when her life's put in jeopardy and has her believing that she's responsible for killing things.

Even Meridian's great aunt, who's annoyed at the girl's parents for the informational void, doesn't entirely explain what's going on, making Meridian dig for information vital to her survival.

And while I can understand that Tens, the aunt's helper/protector, is annoyed at having no choice in who he's destined to protect and thereby in his future, taking it out on the confused Meridian doesn't help matters.

I also found the church/Aternocti connection obvious and wondered 1) how the aunt missed it and 2) what 'good things' the church did that she alluded to at one point.  The church moved in and suddenly the two main employers in town shut down, it implemented a bread and juice confinement plan for pregnant women, after which the first seven women on it died.  I understand that people do strange things when afraid, but these are obvious correlations.  Why would you blame someone who has lived in the community for years and who has always helped people for a few bad events that happened soon after the church arrived?  One of which was a direct result of church action.  And how could the aunt have missed all of it?

But those are adult complaints.  Most teens will sympathise with Meridian's plight and enjoy the budding romance between her and Tens.

Monday, 28 March 2011

New Author Spotlight: Lisa Paitz Spindler

New Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.


Today's spotlight shines on a special author, one of my fellow SF Signal contributors, Lisa Paitz Spindler.

Her book goes on sale today, March 28th, in ebook format:

Here's the cover copy and trailer for The Spiral Path:
After defecting from the Star Union eleven years ago, spaceship Captain Lara Soto is now the leader of the free Chimerans. Her only regret is the intense young officer she left behind. But when Terra's S.U.S. Interlace goes missing with her brother Rafael on board, she has to push aside the pain of her betrayal and team up with her old love once again.

Commodore Mitch Yoshida has never stopped thinking about the woman who deserted him. He's also witnessed first-hand the Terran discrimination Lara foretold, from sequestering Chimerans on spaceships to enforcing indentured military service.

With Rafael and the Interlace crew held prisoner by a being out of legend, will Lara and Mitch be able to resist their long-denied attraction and complete a rescue mission? To secure the Chimerans' release, they must risk traveling to a whole new dimension. . .


If you like this title, you might also like:

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Genre News

I know I can't compete with the amazing SF Signal Tidbits page or Grasping for the Wind's Geek Media Round-up, but I do get periodic press releases about SF items, and don't always have time to give those press releases individual posts.  So here are a few things coming up:

Inheritance, book 4 in Christopher Paolini's bestselling series of the same name (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr) will be published on November 8th, 2011.  Paolini will be doing a 10-city author tour to promote the book.  While I wasn't a big fan of the books, I know many others are, so if you've been waiting for the end of this series, the wait's almost over.

Online Colleges has posted yet another SF related reading list.  This time it's the 80 greatest science fiction books for kids [Edited July 2012 to add: I've deleted the link as an email I received said it's no longer active].  There are a lot of great selections.  I'd add the rather new 0.4 by Mike Lancaster, which I read a few weeks back and loved.  The City of Ember (Jeanne DuPrau), Inside Out (Maria Snyder) and Unwind (Neal Shusterman) would also make my list.

Finally, ChiZine Press's Chiaroscuro Reading series is proud to announce that Robert Shearman will be a guest at their April event.  From the release:

On April 12, 2011, the Chiaroscuro Reading Series (chiseries.webs.com) will feature an exclusive reading by British Fantasy Award-winning author Robert Shearman, best known for the rebirth of the iconic Daleks in the re-imagined Doctor Who, at the Augusta House, just in time for the launch of Doctor Who: Season Six.

Authors Robert Paul Weston and Robert Priest will also be reading.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Geek Gifts: Rare Earth Magnetic Balls

There are several companies selling rare earth magnet balls, or neodymium balls.  You've probably heard of a few of them already: Buckyballs (from whose site the photo to the left came from), NeoCube, ZenMagnets, CyberCube and more.  I bought my husband a set of NeoCubes a few years back (the only ones I could find in Canada at the time). 

With most of the sets you get 200+ mini balls that you can put together in any number of designs.  They're quite amusing and will occupy a geeks and non-geeks alike for many, many hours.

One thing to be aware of, the companies who make these have designed them all to be slightly different sizes from each other.  Even within manufacturers your balls could be differently sized (for example, if you get CyberCube's 7x7 green box the balls are 4.76mm, if you get the 6x6 blue box, they're 6mm).

So, though NeoCubes were the only ones available in Canada back when I bought them, I can't find them here anymore, but also can't supplement them with a set from another company either.  So take care when deciding which company to go with.

If you're not into balls, here's a site that sells rare-earth magnets of different shapes and sizes, MagCraft.

Seriously though, magnets are a lot of fun.  Just play safely.  Each site contains a warning against letting children get their hands on them (swallowing magnets can lead to injury or death).  You can buy them from their respective sites, a lot of game/puzzle sites online and science stores.

Here's a video from 's youtube page, showing some of the shapes you can make:

Friday, 25 March 2011

New Author Spotlight: Jaye Wells



Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.

Today's spotlight shines on Jaye Wells.

Jaye Wells's books include:

Here's the cover copy for Red-Headed Stepchild:
In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina Kane has the only profession fit for an outcast: assassin. But, her latest mission threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races and Sabina must scramble to figure out which side she's on. She's never brought her work home with her---until now.

This time, it's personal.

If you like these titles, you might also like:

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Book Review: 0.4 by Mike Lancaster

Pros: old style SF feel, VERY fast read, quick paced, suspenseful
Cons: leaves you wanting more
For Parents: no content, a great SF primer for newcomers

0.4 (Human.4 in the U.S.) is a book written in the style of classic science fiction writers like H.G. Wells and John Wyndham in that there's a narrator explaining strange events that have already occurred.  In this case, the narrator is Kyle Straker, a teenager whose 3 audio tape recordings have been found and heavily analyzed by historians of the future.  This written transcript (the book itself) is edited by Mike A. Lancaster.

Kyle has a fantastic story to tell.  At the annual talent show on the village green he agrees to be a test subject of a friend's attempts at hypnotism.  When he wakes up from the trance a few minutes later the world has changed.

The novel is best read knowing as little as possible about it.  It reads very much like a Twilight Zone episode, the pleasure coming both from the suspense and in trying to guess what's going on.  And the editor's asides about 20th Century phrases and cultural norms are quite interesting.  Aside from the cassette tapes (the use of which is explained within the text) the technology mentioned is modern.

This is a fun, quick read with TV style pacing and a story that will keep you guessing about what's really going on.  If you're trying to introduce a young reader to science fiction, this makes the perfect primer.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blinky™ by Ruairi Robinson

This amazing science fiction/horror short was written and directed by Ruairi Robinson.  The tag phrase for it is:

Soon every home will have a robot helper.

Don't worry.

It's perfectly safe.

And perfectly creepy.


Blinky™ from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.

His short, The Silent City, a military post-apocalyptic film, is also quite good.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Lisa Paitz Spindler's Blog Tour for The Spiral Path

Lisa's a fellow contributor over at SF Signal, and her first book, The Spiral Path, is coming out at the end of the month from Carina Press.  She'll be doing a blog tour to promote her book, with the following dates/locations planned.

March 23 - Get Lost In A Story
March 25 - Tawny Weber
March 27 - Galaxy Express
March 28 - Sci-Fi Fan Letter & Manic Readers
March 29 - SF Signal & Carina Press Blog
March 30 - Supernatural Sisters
March 31 - Cindy Spencer Pape
She's also set to appear on a Functional Nerds podcast, date TBA.


Want to know what her book's about?  Here's the trailer:



Monday, 21 March 2011

The BOOK: Bio Optical Organized Knowledge Device

I snagged this from PYR Editor Lou Anders' page.  It's a youtube video by

 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Robert J. Sawyer's Canadian Book Tour for WWW: Wonder

Robert J. Sawyer has announced the dates for his upcoming book tour to promote book three of his WWW trilogy, Wonder.  The book is out in Canada on March 29th, in the US on April 5th and the UK on May 19th.   Ebook and audio (via Audible) editions will both be out in April.

The dates for his book tour are:

Toronto: Tuesday, March 29
Saskatoon: Thursday, March 31
Calgary: Sunday, April 3
Edmonton: Monday, April 4
Vancouver: Tuesday, April 5
Ottawa: Saturday, April 30
Waterloo: Tuesday, May 3
Winnipeg: Thursday, May 19

 You can find details about the tour events here.  He's also busy with conventions in Canada the US, and even Japan, so check to see if he's coming to a con near you.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Flight of the Conchords, "Frodo, Don't Wear the Ring"

Found this on Nathan Bransford's site.  Flight of the Conchords, "Frodo, don't wear the ring".

Friday, 18 March 2011

Author Interview: Thomas Sniegoski

Novels: several teen, kid and media tie-ins viewable here; the following adult novels:

Remy Chandler Series:
A Kiss Before the Apocalypse
Dancing on the Head of a Pin
Where Angels Fear to Tread
A Hundred Words for Hate

The Menagerie Series, written with Christopher Golden:
The Nimble Man
Tears of the Furies
Stones Unturned
Crashing Paradise







> What is the premise behind your
Remy Chandler series?

The Remy Chandler series is about Boston based Private Investigator Remy Chandler.  Remy is an all around nice guy, and just so happens to be an angel as well.  Remy (then Remiel) left Heaven right after the great war with Lucifer--tired of all the politics of Heaven, he came to earth, and now lives as a human . . . well, he tries to live as a human.  Things of a supernatural nature have a tendency to dog him--especially since narrowly averting the Apocalypse in the first Remy novel, A Kiss Before the Apocalypse.  Basically, the Remy Chandler books are hard boiled detective novels with a heaping doss of the supernatural--they've got mystery, romance, violence, angels, monsters and dogs.  How's that?



> You've got a teen series and an adult series about angels, what's the appeal of angels?

I was raised Roman Catholic, so every Sunday I would find myself at the nine o'clock mass, and at the church my family attended, there was this great big ceiling painting of the archangel Michael, wearing armor, with his wings spread and a fiery sword raised, and he was standing on the head of a man, whose body gradually morphed into the body of a serpent.  Now, I didn't know it then, but this painting depicted an epic battle between Michael and Lucifer . . . and it changed the way that I perceived angels.  I'd always been told, and seen on TV or movies, or greeting cards, that angels were these nice creatures . . . pretty ladies with cottony white wings, wearing fancy night gowns, or chubby babies in diapers.  Looking up at that ceiling one Sunday morning, I didn't see cute, or fluffy . . . I saw something fearsome, and I think something just clicked inside my brain.

> How do you find writing teen and children's books compared to writing adult titles?

There's really not that big of a difference to me.  It's all about story telling, and the characters that I'm using to tell this story. The biggest difference is that when writing for kids, I have to be careful of my language, and certain adult activities . . . but other then that, it's all pretty much the same process.

> Is working in the comic book industry really as awesome as everyone believes?

There's definitely a cool factor about working in comics, but it's a tough nut to crack. It seems like there are lots of folks out there who want to write comics, so there's quite a bit of competition.


> You've worked on several comics including Batman, Hellboy and Wolverine.  Which was the most fun to work on and why?

> Hellboy and the Hellboy universe of characters are probably my favorites.  There's just something so cool about the world that Mike Mignola created.  It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Hellboy sort of defines everything that I love . . . monsters, unlikely heroes, ancient civilizations . . . did I mention monsters? 

> How is collaborating on a novel (as you've done with Christopher Golden) different from writing it alone?

There's more of a competition when working with a writing partner.  When Chris and I work together, we're alway attempting to top each other.  He'll write a scene--that is completely nuts--and send it over to me . . . I read it, and flip out, and now I have to top it.  So I then write a scene, making it as wild as I possibly can, and then kick it back to him.  This is how it goes, back and forth, with each of us trying to top the other.  It's actually kind of fun.

> What made you want to be a writer?

Even as a little kid I was always telling stories.  I can remember sitting on the living room floor, with all my action figures around me, and actually doing stories with my toys that continued into the next day . . . sometimes the stories would continue for weeks, all played out with my super hero, dinosaur and monster toys.  When  I got a bit older, I would head upstairs to my older brother's room and bang away on his typewriter, writing stories (with no punctuation mind you) about Godzilla fighting other monsters.  It was nuts . . . sometimes I'd be up there for hours.  I wish I had some of those stories still.

> When and where do you write?

I write from very early in the morning, 5:00am, till around 4:30pm or 5:00pm in the afternoon.  By then my brain is fried. 

And I write in my office.  About two years ago we renovated an old porch that ran along side my house into a spiffy new office.  It's pretty great.  There, I'm surrounded by all my cool stuff . . . statues, toys, books, CDs . . . everything that I love is around me as I work. 

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is that I get to tell stories as my job . . . it's insane to think that my life long dream actually came true . . . that's just nuts to me.  The worst thing is having to create on a schedule . . . there are just some days when the ideas won't come, but it doesn't really matter, that book has to be done by a deadline, or you're in really big trouble.  It can be tough when somedays (weeks even) you just don't feel the spark . . . but there's an editor waiting.

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

To tell you the truth, there was quite a bit I didn't know about the publishing industry.  I really had no idea what went into, and how long, it actually took to produce a book . . . and then the process that book had to go through with sales, and marketing, before it even hit stores.  The sad thing is, you pretty much know if you're book is a success or not before it even gets put on a bookstore shelf. 

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

It's going to sound kind of obvious, but they need to write . . . write all the time . . . keep a journal, jot down observations of what they see every day . . . write, write, write.  And they need to read... anything and everything, not just the stuff they like.  They need to be exposed to all sorts of writing, so they can figure out what they like, and don't like--and hopefully learn from it.

> Any tips against writers block?

When you get it, walk away from whatever it is that you're doing, and do something else . . . go for a walk, or run . . . go to a movie, read a book, listen to music, take a nap . . .work on another project.  The time away from the problem project will allow you to come back to it with a fresher eye.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I look at my bills . . .HA!  Really, if I don't get the work done, I don't get paid and that opens up a whole new can of worms.  Writing has to be treated like a job . . . you show up, you do your work, and then you stop until it starts all over again in the morning.  Sounds kind of boring, but it's the approach I need in order to do it every day.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

Y'know, I really didn't get many the first few books I wrote.  The rejections have come around more recently with the down turn in the economy and everything.  Everybody (editors/publishers) are being quite careful with what they're buying . . . they have to sort of know it's going to be a hit, before they take the chance.

Book Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan

Pros: all the elements of a good fantasy, steampunk additions, very interesting religion (Mannian)

Cons: emotions seemed forced, assassin apprenticeship was surprisingly impersonal

Ash, a Farlander Roshun (a group of assassins who perform vendettas on behalf of people protected by their seals), decides it's time to take on an apprentice when he almost dies on his most recent mission.  So when the starving 17 year old Nico breaks into his room and steals his purse, he decides he's found his man.

It's also a good time for Nico to leave Bar-Khos, a city that's been under siege by the Mannian army for the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, Kirkus, a young priest of Mann, the only son of the High Matriarch, is preparing for his initiation.  During the ceremony he culls a seal wearer and makes himself a target of the Roshun.

The book is technically well written, with a religious empire working towards conquering the rest of the world.  The characters are interesting and there are hints of steampunk (guns and flying ships).  Instead of fantasy races, the book uses different human races, based on geography and nationality.  Indeed, people interested in the racefail argument will find this book an example of how to do things right.  Not only are skin colours different, so are religions and cultural practices.  And there's a surprising lack of racism in the book.

Kirkus and the religion of Mann were the most interesting aspect of the book for me.  The religion, based on a lack of conscience and the purposeful dissolution of morals in order to become strong, was fascinating in its uniqueness.  And while the teen was obviously spoiled, it was interesting to see how he became what he was.

Yet, for all its good points I was never pulled into the story.  I didn't like Nico as a character, being surprisingly rude to his master (considering Ash was an assassin, someone who you'd think would deserve respect for that alone) and unwilling to accept responsibility for his choices.

Maybe Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows has ruined me for apprentices in training, because I couldn't understand why Ash needed an apprentice at all.  He simply dumps the kid at his monastery/school and lets others teach him.  There's little to no actual instruction passing from Ash to Nico.  And it was unbelievable when Ash chose to bring the barely trained Nico on a mission.  The boy was a liability and not at the skill point where he should have been on missions, even as an observer.   And at no point did I feel that Ash had made an emotional connection to his apprentice.

Some of the Roshun's actions were also strange.  A fishing contest to resolve a dispute?  Having one person carry all the supplies on a mission, unbalancing him (so he's less able to fight and keep up) and making the others wait for him and try to get each of their materials from him during the fight seemed kind of stupid.

I found Mr. Buchanan's made up words for cultural things distracting.  For example, the popular drink was 'chee'.  It's never explained if this is made from leaves (like tea), or beans (like coffee), grains or even fruit.  So I couldn't picture it properly.  And for some reason, whenever I read the word 'chee' my brain spat out 'ghee', so I imagined these people drinking clarified butter, and shuddered.

Also, unlike traditional fantasy, there is no magic here.  There is a seer, but he waves off his prophetic dreams as the product of scholarship.  (I'm not sure what scholarship allows a man to look at half a paired seal and know if the wearer of the other half was murdered, but the author assured that it's not magic.)

Still, these are for the most part minor complaints.  And it's possible that had I read this book at a different time I'd have liked it a lot more.  So, give it a chance and see what you think of it.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Publisher Spotlight: PYR

In an attempt to introduce readers to newer/smaller publishers, I've started an endcap series at the store called Publisher Spotlight.  For three months the publisher's books are displayed.  This is the second month for the PYR display (which has changed as things sell down).  Enjoy!

And if you don't know PYR, check out their website and read some of their awesome books.

Jim Hines Launches Goblin EBook

Jim Hines, author of the Goblin trilogy (Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, Goblin War) and the Princess books (Step-Sister Scheme, Mermaid's Madness, Red Hood's Revenge), has launched a self-published collection of his goblin short stories for $2.99.  It's currently available for the Kindle US and UK and the Nook.  Other formats coming soon.

You can read about the book launch here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Book Review: Trouble And Her Friends by Melissa Scott

Pros: 'realistic' internet, relevant (net coming under government control/interference, environmental problems)

Cons: grammar tense shift from the real world (past tense) to the net and character's thoughts (present tense) was distracting

Pro/Con: very involved story (you have to pay close attention), slow paced, two lesbian love scenes (both are short and less involved than what you'll find in a traditional romance novel)

Trouble walked away from her life as a cracker and her girlfriend, when the Evans-Tindale law passed, making net crimes prosecutable in the real world with harsh penalties.

Three years later, a new cracker's using the name Trouble and forces the real Trouble out of retirement.

For a book dealing with the internet and computers, the technobabble's surprisingly easy to comprehend.  It's a book that requires attention, but I'm not the most well versed when it comes to computers and had no difficulty following the story.  Having said that, it's possible people more in the know will pick up on errors regarding cracking and net use that I didn't notice.

One thing I really like was how, though there were real world consequences for things that happened on the net (sore fingers from trying to crack IC(E) security systems due to the nerve pulse they give off) there was no 'you have to make it back to a home port before you can get off the net' (like in the Matrix or Tekwar).  Though other crackers considered it a lack of skill to use it, users could hit an emergency disconnect.

I also liked that there were societal divisions on the net between those who were light and shadow (ie, criminals and cops/regular users), on the dollie (connection slot that only allowed data transfer) and those on the wire (brainworm connection that translated data as sensations and illusions).

The protagonists are both apologetically *unapologetically lesbian. ** Given that the book was originally published in 1998 I thought it was great that the author felt no need to apologize for or justify their sexuality.   And while they're discriminated against in the novel, they manage to form communities, both on and off the nets.  And for those of you who are curious, there are two quick but complete love scenes.  If you've read a modern romance novel you've probably read more explicit stuff already.

The book was a fairly slow read, as the plot and technology were fairly involved.  My only complaint was with the verb tense changes between narration and thoughts and again between the real world and the net.  I found the switches distracting and caused me to lose my place in the story.

Well ahead of its time, Trouble And Her Friends is an interesting, relevant read.


* Corrected April 17th.  I noticed this error when doing my 'should book reviews mention content issues' post. Talk about changing the meaning of the sentence.  Sorry I didn't notice this when posting and for any confusion it caused.  ** I've added this sentence to clarify my meaning for including this paragraph. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Closed to Review Requests

In the interests of getting some long neglected projects done, I will no longer be accepting review requests for books.  I hope to review my remaining contracted books by the end of March.

What does this mean for the blog?  Trust me, I'll still be reading.  I have a stack of books I own that I haven't had time to read due to other reading commitments.  Here's a small sampling:

Dark Haven - Gail Martin
Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
Time Traveler's Never Die - Jack McDevitt
Sasha - Joel Shepherd
Last Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko
Luck in the Shadows - Lynn Flewelling
Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
Plague War - Jeff Carlson

Then there are a few books coming out in April that I want to read immediately:

Element Zero - James Knapp
Eona - Alison Goodman
The Unremembered - Peter Orullian

There are the sequels to books I've enjoyed and haven't been able to pick up:

King of Crags - Stephen Deas
Fearscape - Simon Holt
Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld
Broken Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin

And of course books that have intrigued me:

The Last Stormlord - Glenda Larke
The Cardinal's Blade - Pierre Pevel
The Drowning City - Amanda Downum
Geist - Philippa Ballantine
Crossfire - Miyuki Miyabe
Incarceron - Catherine Fisher

Then there are the books I want to reread.  I used to reread books a lot and had to stop once I started reviewing.  I didn't have time to spare reading books I'd read (and probably reviewed) before.  But I miss the practice, miss flipping through stories I know I love.  Like:

Transformation - Carol Berg
Son of Avonar - Carol Berg (if you haven't read her, I can't recommend her enough)
Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold
Resenting the Hero - Moira Moore
Mirror Prince - Violette Malan
Homeland - R. A. Salvatore
Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

There are more, of course, but thinking about them makes me want to pick them up right now and I still have other books to read first.

Needless to say, there will be reviews coming.  They may not be the newest books anymore, but I'm also hoping to vary my reading more again (get in some classics, more SF, a few urban fantasies) despite the high concentration of fantasy on this page.  I also suspect I'll be catching up on teen fiction, both because it's quick to read and because I like dystopian fiction (which seems to be a hot subgenre for them now).

It's also become apparent to me that I need a break from reviewing.  I couldn't read the last 2 books I picked up, despite their being interesting (one of them was The Windup Girl, which I've been looking forward to reading for months).  I'm simply burnt out at the moment and need some time to relax and read for fun before I can go back to the 'job'.  And no one wants a negative review simply because the reviewer is tired and cranky.

Any books I've agreed to review will still be reviewed and in a more timely manner.  If you send me a book I haven't requested or agreed to read, I'll put it under consideration but won't consider myself contracted to read it.

If you have a book coming that you want me to look at, you can still email me about it.  I'm going to take things at a slower pace but if your project interests me, I may pick it up on my own.  :)

And when I start accepting reviews again (the summer?  the fall?) I want to get back to my 2 weeks to review mode, rather than the month or two it's been the past few months due to volume.

#Torchat Wednesday, March 16th at 4 PM

Tomorrow Tor is hosting their second twitter chat.  This month's topic is debut authors, featuring Peter Orullian (The Unremembered), Beth Bernobich (Passion Play) and Rhiannon Frater (The First Days: As the World Dies).

In addition to the hour long chat, there will be exclusive fan giveaways from @Torbooks.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Breaking Down, Twilight Parody Graphic Novel

If The Contra Alliance isn't your thing, or you want a graphic novel with a more humerous slant, try Breaking Down, a parody of the Twilight series by Blood Prophecy author Stefan Petrucha, his daughter Maia Kinney-Petrucha and artist Rick Parker.

From the press release:


Having sliced Harry Potty, Stefan joins his daughter, Maia Kinney-Petrucha, to cut up the best-selling series starring love-sick vampires and jealous werewolves!

Artist extraordinare Rick Parker again lends his considerable dicing talents in this unauthorized parody of the blockbuster book and movie series!

For fans sick of glittery vampires and wonky werewolves, here's the hilarious antidote!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Contra Alliance Graphic Novel

From the press release regarding the series:
Contra Alliance begins in 2035 amidst superpower conflict between the United States and China. The story follows a NATO Special Forces unit that uncovers a galactic conspiracy and secret invasion on Earth while engaging a militant group called The Revolution. Since the NATO mission is Counter-Revolutionary, the strike force is codenamed CONTRA.
From their website:

Book One: Shadows of the Past

Set in the near future where global strife threatens humanity, Shadows of the Past follows the raging conflict between good and evil on Earth. Book I explores the adventures of NATO's Counter-Revolutionary (CONTRA) strike force as it engages in battle against the mysterious rogue group, The Revolution.

In tracking the shadowy Revolution, CONTRA discovers signs of a supernatural or extraterrestrial presence behind spreading global chaos. Peril intensifies in a world already on the brink of war.

From southern Colombia and occupied Taiwan, to central Russia and the streets of Jerusalem, follow the lives, relationships, and experiences of the CONTRA officer corps as the truth they discover reveals shocking origins to The Revolution.

An unexpected journey ensues, exposing clues that unlock a concealed reality. Hidden secrets place Earth in the midst of an ancient war. As revelations deepen, the course of human history alters, setting an intriguing entry-point into The Contra Alliance Trilogy.
Again from the press release:

Shadows of the Past retails at $22.95 showcasing cover artwork by celebrated comic artist Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika). The novel is 376-pages long, with an e-book version available on Kindle, iPad, and Nook for $3.95.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fractal Fantasy


Fractal Fantasy from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

I created this video using 4 of the fractals from the Fractal Lab library (fractal.io). The music is "The Goya Discovery" Written and Performed by: Derek R. Audette - ©MMX Derek R. Audette (SOCAN) (derekaudette.ottawaarts.com/​music.php).

(For some reason the video player makes the film choppier than the original. Feel free to download it from Vimeo to see it at a much higher frame rate.)

From the Fractal Lab website:
"Fractal Lab is a WebGL based fractal explorer allowing you to explore 2D and 2D fractal. The fractals are rendered using the OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL) to enable real-time interactivity.

WARNING: it is possible to create GLSL fractal shaders that will lock up your GPU requiring a hard reboot if pushed too hard. Use at your own risk!"
Heed the warning. I crashed my laptop twice using the program, but it was worth it. You can play with colours, fog density and other parameters. Just remember to save your fractal, because it's very hard to recreate one you liked. Play with your fractal in preview mode, but don't forget to click the box and end preview before taking photos or video clips. For the sake of this video I only zoomed in. On the website you can change the camera angles and move in different directions. And you have use a browser that supports OpenGL (so Google Chrome).

You can create some nifty space and fantasy art with the fractals.  The first was done by my husband, the other two by me. 

Edward Willett Named Regina Public Library Writer-In-Residence

From the press release:

SF/FANTASY AUTHOR EDWARD WILLETT NAMED WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE

Aurora Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Edward Willett has been named writer-in-residence at the Regina Public Library, Regina, Saskatchewan, for a nine-month period beginning September 1 and continuing through May 2012.

Willett is the 24th writer-in-residence since the Regina Public Library became the first public library in Canada to offer such a program, back in 1978.

The paid position will allow Willett to spend 70 percent of his time on his own writing projects and 30 percent on his writer-in-residence duties, which include meeting with local writers and conducting workshops and readings at the library and in schools.

Willett’s science fiction and fantasy novels include Marseguro, winner of the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009, and its sequel, Terra Insegura, both published by DAW Books. His latest novel is Song of the Sword, a YA fantasy, the first installment of the five-book Shards of Excalibur series, published by Lobster Press in Montreal.

Willett’s first adult fantasy novel, Magebane, will be published by DAW this fall under the pen name Lee Arthur Chane. The second book in the Shards of Excalibur series, Twist of the Blade, will also appear this fall.

Willett is also the author of numerous non-fiction books for both adults and children, covering topics as diverse as the Iran-Iraq war, the mutiny on the Bounty, and the lives of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash. Among his children’s books are biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien and Orson Scott Card, published by Enslow Publishers.
 Congratulations Mr. Willett.  You can read the interview I did with him a few years back when Terra Insegura came out here.

Friday, 11 March 2011

New Author Spotlight: Stoney Compton

Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.

Today's spotlight shines on Stoney Compton.


Stoney Compton's books include:

Here's the cover copy for Russian America:
Alaska, 1989. In a world where Alaska is still a Russian possession, charter captain Grigorivich Plesnett has a stained past - as a major in the Czar's Troika Guard he was cashiered for disobeying a direct order. Now, ten years later, Grig charters out to a cossack and discovers his past has not only caught up with him but is about to violently change his future, and the future of all nine of the nations of North America as well. Spanning Alaska from the Southeastern Inside Passage to the frozen Yukon, this is an epic tale of one man's journey of redemption and courage to face old challenges and help birth a new nation.

If you like these titles, you might also like:

Japanese Earthquake

My thoughts are with the people in Japan after this disaster.  As someone commented on one of the news articles I've read, it's like watching a Hollywood disaster movie, only with real consequences in terms of loss of life and infrastructure.  The video clip shows tsunamis hitting Miyagi Prefecture, in the Sendai area.   I've been to Sendai several times, most recently last June, and it's heart-wrenching seeing this.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Enhanced Ebooks Are Here

I received a press release yesterday concerning a new iPad app called Bookidu.  Basically, when you read the story to your kids (so far there's only Hansel and Gretel), you touch the highlighted words on the screen and the iPad gives you background noises to accompany your reading.  The idea is that it will enhance the reading experience for children and adults alike.

Here's a video of the story being read in German.



What do you think? Is this the future of books? Will adding background sounds enhance the reading experience or make it worse?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Book Review: Outside In by Maria Snyder

Pros: good pacing, interesting story, realistic relationship development

Cons: Trella manages to do an awful lot despite injuries and being tracked at one point

The Pop Cops are in the brig and a committee now runs Inside.  But the scrubs aren't happy and most have stopped working.  Trella's still reeling from the events of Inside Out and doesn't want more responsibility.  So she's only a consultant to the committee, which is ignoring all of her suggestions.  After a blast destroys a key system and injures a lot of people, Trella discovers that it was not an accident but caused by saboteurs.  How could things have gone so bad so fast?

Ms. Snyder's forte is with relationships, and this book shows off her skill in that regard.  Trella's relationship with Dr. Lamont begins strained and slowly develops into something new.  Her relationship with Riley also progresses at a natural pace, with her reckless behaviour causing him stress and hesitation with regards to taking things further.

As with the previous book, Trella makes mistakes and grows as a person when she acknowledges them.

Lots of unexpected twists will keep readers on their toes.  While Trella does endure more pain and injuries, again recovering remarkably fast, she remains a fun, flawed character.

Sword Dance and Shadowgraph by Taichi Saotome

I saw this on College Humor a week or so ago.  It's Taichi Saotome's Special New Year Performance from Dragon and Peony, called "Sword Dance and Shadowgraph".  The choreography's quite beautiful.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Jessica Strider is now on Facebook

I've considered getting a page on facebook for a while, but it was a post by Nathan Bransford that convinced me now's the time.

So, there's now a 'like' button on the side of the blog, and I've had the 'add this' tool up for a while, so you can add individual posts to your facebook feed and other sites. 

And I have a shiny new Jessica Strider page on facebook.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Book Review: Inside Out by Maria Snyder

Pros: protagonist experiences real growth of character

Cons: Trella recovers from severe injuries surprisingly fast


For Parents: no content issues or language, mild violence

Trella knows their world is a cube.  Though she's a scrub, and relegated to a life of drudgery cleaning the ducts on levels 1 and 2, she's snuck to the upper levels often enough.

Now her skill at navigating the ducts and breaking the rules is going to get her into trouble.  Her only friend is convinced that Gateway - a door to an outside world - exists.  To prove him wrong she must retrieve something from the upper levels.  Only the authorities have set a trap and she's about to spring it.

While neither the idea of a two-tier society nor an enclosed environment are unique, their combination and lack of known history by the inhabitants makes this story interesting.

Trella's do it herself mentality could be grating, but it's not.  She's a teen who wants more from life and who's willing to change as her world expands.  She does heal much faster than I believe is possible, and functions well under high amounts of pain, but that's becoming common in teen dystopian fiction.

And she's given time to think about events and see the consequences of her actions, allowing for true character growth.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Chiaroscuro Event: Cory Doctorow Comes To Town

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series' event consisted of authors David Nickle and Cory Doctorow.  Ken Schroeder was supposed to read as well, but was ill and couldn't make it.  The readings were great, followed by short Q&A sessions.  I particularly liked Cory Doctorow's response to a question about why so much science fiction written nowadays is focused on near future rather than far future.  He said something along the lines of science fiction being less about predicting the future and more about explaining the fears of the people of the period the books were written.  And we're certainly afraid of technological abuses on one hand and curtailed freedoms on the other (dystopian fiction anyone?).

All in all, it was a fun evening.

Their next event, The Robs Take Toronto, is Tuesday April 12th.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Zoo City Short-Listed for Arthur C. Clarke Award. Publisher Lowers Price Until Monday

To celebrate the fact that Zoo City has been short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Angry Robot Books has lowered its price at their ebook store from £4.49 to just £1 (that's less than $2 for those of us on the other side of the pond), but only until Monday March 7th.

To take advantage of this awesome price, use the link below:
http://www.angryrobotstore.com/fantasy/zoo-city-lauren-beukes.html



The short-list titles for the award are:

  • Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
  • The Dervish House, Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
  • Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness (Walker)
  • Generosity, Richard Powers (Atlantic)
  • Declare, Tim Powers (Corvus)
  • Lightborn, Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)

It's a good list.  I've read two of the books (and they were fantastic) and a third's on my to be read list.  The winners will be announced in London on April 27th.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Author Interview: Jaye Wells

Novels: 
Red-Headed Stepchild
The Mage In Black
Green-Eyed Demon

Short Story: "Vampsploitation", published in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance vol. 2

Website: jayewells.com

> What is the premise behind your Sabina Kane series? 

Sabina Kane is a half-mage, half-vampire assassin. Both her mixed blood and her profession make her an outcast in the vampire society in which she was raised. So when her mage family seeks her out on the eve of a war between the races, Sabina must figure out whose side she's on: the vamps, the mages--or her own. As she struggles to find her place in this world, she picks up a rag-tag team of allies that include a mysterious and handsome mage and Mischief demon minion who sometimes takes the form of a smack-talking hairless cat. I like to describe the series as having dark themes, grave stakes and wicked humor.

> What's the appeal of assassins?

For me, it's exploring the razor's edge of morality. Vampires have a different set of ethics about killing, but even among a race of killers Sabina's an outcast. I love exploring grey areas and understand how sociopathic characters often see their choices as justified and even noble. Also, making Sabina an assassin at the beginning of the series gave me a lot of room for character growth as the stories progress.

> How do you keep the vampire mythos fresh in your novels?

When I started creating Sabina’s world, I knew I wanted to take some of the long-held vampire myths and twist them. I did a lot of research into biblical history and Jewish folklore for this book and one thing I kept coming back to was the classic forbidden fruit story in Genesis. When Eve and Adam ate the fruit from this tree several things happened, including their loss of immortality. Since Lilith left the garden before this event, I made the logical leap that Lilith and her offspring would be immortal because they didn’t eat this fruit, which I decided was an apple.

Since vampires are the only direct descendants of Lilith in this world they too are immortal. This way the forbidden fruit becomes important in the rules of the world. Instead of any old stake being able to kill a vampire, it must be an apple wood stake. Apple cider bullets work well too. The apple strips them of immortality so they can be killed. 

I also incorporated Cain to the mythos by saying that after he was marked by God and forced to wander, he met Lilith and they had an affair. I incorporated the lore that the Mark of Cain was red hair into the vampire mythos by stating all vampires have red hair. This twist is supported by a lot of Eastern European lore that claimed red hair was a sign of vampirism.

Basically, I kept it fresh by twisting existing myths and lore and adding my own imaginative elements.

> Did your work as a magazine editor/freelance writer facilitate the transition to novelist?

Not as much as you might imagine. Good articles tell some sort of story and you definitely need to have a knack for putting sentences together. But books are very different beasts. I had to learn story structure and other fiction-specific tools just like everyone else. In fact, I'd say my life-long love of reading probably prepared me more for writing fiction than any other factor.

> What made you want to be a writer?

That's both a really easy and very difficult question to answer. The easy answer is: I love words, stories and entertaining people. Plus keeping the drama on the page tends to reduce it in my real life.

> Since you like vampires, would you change places with any of your characters and live in your urban fantasy world?

It will probably surprise some people to learn that I'd hate to be a vampire. All that blood drinking and violence and angst. Not for me, thanks. I'd probably enjoy being Sabina's demon sidekick Giguhl for a day or two. He gets to have all the fun.

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing about writing is when I'm in the zone and the words are flowing and I am a conduit for story. The worst days are when I am more like a frustrated miner hacking away at the walls looking for 14k words and only finding fool's gold.

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

I didn't realize how little control I'd have over almost every step of the publishing process. The only thing we control is the words. So many things can go wrong and we can't do a darned thing about it. Since a lot of writers are control freaks with God complexes, this can be a pretty soul-crushing reality to accept. Best to just put your head down and keeping writing.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Be stubbornly obstinate about your dreams. Be consistent and deliberate in your practice of the craft. Read outside your genre. Don't let the bastards get you down.

> Any tips against writers block?

Writers block, in my experience, is literally the writer getting in their own way. Trying to circumvent your natural process or taking a wrong turn in a story or letting the critic in your head get the best of you. Sometimes it's good to take a step back and get a fresh perspective. Or talk it out with a trusted friend. Also, stay busy. An idle mind is fertile ground for doubt.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

First, deadlines are pretty great motivators (even self-imposed ones for unpubbed writers). Second, I've learned that if I don't write consistently, I tend to get off kilter. I'm happiest when I'm productive. Third, I try to find something to be fascinated by in each scene I write. If I'm excited about my work, I'm more likely to show up each day.