Get published with Sword & Laser on Inkshares!

Good news, everyone! You know we love Inkshares, and now we've partnered with them to kick off their Collections. What does this mean?

To debut the Sword & Laser Collection on Inkshares, we will publish the five science fiction and fantasy projects with the most pre-orders by May 31st, 2015. Sword & Laser will choose their personal favorite from the top five and make it the debut book in their Collection.

The debut Sword & Laser Collection author will receive an interview on the Sword & Laser podcast. All five winners will receive a coaching session from Gary Whitta, Star Wars: Rogue One co-writer and author of Abomination, in addition to having their book published and distributed into independent bookstores, Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble.

You can read all about the content over on Inkshares. Can't wait to see what you guys are working on!

William Gibson on VR: "They did it!"

William Gibson, author of seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, tries out a virtual reality headset and deems this iteration of cyberspace up to snuff. Hey, if he's happy, we're happy!

Alpha SF/F/H Workshop Scholarship Drive

Here at Sword & Laser, we love encouraging people to try writing for themselves, even if it's just during NaNoWriMo! But the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop is helping many young writers, ages 14-19, learn their trade with the help of volunteers at their yearly workshop in Pittsburg. But they need our help!
 


Writing genre fiction can be a lonely business for teens. The Alpha SF/F/H Workshop brings together young writers, aged 14 to 19, for ten days of creation and peer review critiques. At the end of the workshop, students leave with new skills and a vibrant network of support.

Alphans have published in dozens of markets, including Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Analog and Strange Horizons. Many of them have placed and won in contests such as The Dell Magazine Award, Writers of the Future, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Tamora Pierce, author of young adult series such as Protector of the Small and The Provost's Dog, has instructed at the workshop every year since its inception. This year, instructors include Ellen Kushner, author of the beloved Riverside books recently adapted into an award winning Audible series, Delia Sherman of Freedom Maze fame, and Andre Norton-award nominee Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Alpha works hard to keep costs low--every staff member is a volunteer, and the tuition is kept at the lowest possible level--but prospective students often require financial aid. This year--as they have for the past several--alumni have contributed writing and art to an illustrated flash fiction anthology and offered it as a donor reward in the entirely alumni-organized scholarship fund drive.

The Alpha alumni fundraiser will run March 17-26. Would you consider giving us a signal boost? Donations really do change the course of our young writers' lives.

To learn more about the Alpha SF/F/H Young Writers' Workshop, please visit the Alpha website, and check out our latest video, featuring interviews with Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce.

FEATURED REVIEW: Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Emily Carlson

The Low-Down:
Robin Hobb is back, my friends. And for devotees of her epic fantasy series, Realm of the Elderlings, this is a very good thing. Fool’s Assassin is the much-anticipated continuation of the story of Fitz and the Fool, a pair of outcasts who struggle to save their beloved Six Duchies from near disaster. 

Fool’s Assassin opens while Fitz is enjoying his well-earned retirement. Things are finally peaceful and although he cherishes the quiet contentment of his life, Fitz struggles to accept that the need for violence is completely over. He still sequesters himself away from his loved ones, still keeps secrets like a compulsion, still can’t seem to let go of the intrigue - no matter how much he might like to. 

But when some suspicious coincidences start hinting of danger lurking outside Fitz’s rural, idyllic life, it seems it might be a good thing that Fitz has had trouble letting go of his past, because it certainly hasn’t let go of him. 

Key Themes
Country life, paranoia, fatherhood, A MURDER MOST FOUL, prophesy, creepy-crawlies, class, secret passageways, THE ULTIMATE DRAMA QUEEN

What’s Good 
Hobb is a master storyteller. Over the course of the last nine books, Hobb has honed her characters into realistically flawed, frustrating, and oh-so-lovable men and women.  Though the over ten-year gap between Fool’s Fate and Fool’s Assassin gnawed at many fans, the gap was deliberate. With such beloved characters and intricate plot, Hobb has been careful not to exploit them. That is the true triumph of this novel. Nothing here feels forced, nothing feels like Hobb simply wanted to capitalize off of her most recognized and well-loved series. Instead, Hobb has crafted a story that leaves you thinking, Of course! How could I have thought Fitz would fade into quiet retirement?? 

Hobb’s strength has always been her ability to make us care about her characters, and Fool’s Assassin fits right in with her previous books. Some of them have us tearing our hair and shaking the book in frustration, some have us cheering into the pages, but all of them feel fully realized. 

Furthermore, in a marked departure from her previous books staring Fitz, we are finally privy to more than one first-person narrator! Though I won’t reveal who this narrator is, I will say that it was a refreshing and exciting change that is probably going to prove necessary in her next novels. Hobb also builds on our feelings of dramatic irony in this book (everyone remember those high school English classes??) – the characters are intentionally a few steps behind the reader, creating delicious tension to put us all on the edge of our seats.

As another tasty tidbit, it seems that we may finally get a glimpse into the mysterious southern country The Fool hails from!

What’s Less Than Good
Though Hobb springs into action with hints of doom left and right, make no mistake – Fool’s Assassin falls victim to first-volume-in-a-trilogy-syndrome. Odd ends from the previous series and wrapped up. We build a detailed picture of Fitz’s current life. New threads of intrigue are introduced. But, just when the action is starting to get really exciting, we break for the new book. Fool’s Assassin is crucial to move the plot along, and that’s not all that it does, but it can feel frustrating to have so many questions by the end of the book. 

Furthermore, though Hobb always strives to have her novels and trilogies as self-contained as possible, readers with no experience in Realm of the Elderlings will be shortchanged by starting with this novel. Tearful reunions will make no sense, bittersweet partings won’t have their full effect. But that doesn’t mean this series isn’t worth it, it means those readers should look forward to this book at the end of finishing the previous nine books - because it is totally worth it. 

The Final Verdict
Hobb had a lot of expectations to live up to when she decided to continue the story of Fitz and the Fool. Such a beloved series is both a blessing and a curse to an author. However, Hobb rises to the challenge admirably. Although only time will tell if this series can capture the grandeur of her previous novels, Fool’s Assassin has all the hallmarks of a great new series. 

More than anything, Fool’s Assassin promises to capture our attention for her next novel in the series, and leaves us all slobbering for more. 

2014 Nebula nominees announced!

Congrats to all the nominees! Lots of Sword & Laser reads and authors in the list, which is always exciting. The winners will be announced during Nebula Awards Weekend June 4th-7th, 2015 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Novel

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)

Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ( ), translated by Ken Liu (Tor)

Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)


Novella

We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)

Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)

“The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)

“The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)

Calendrical Regression, Lawrence M. Schoen (NobleFusion)

“Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)


Novelette

“Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)

“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)

“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)

“The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)

“We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)

“The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)


Short Story

“The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)

“When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)

“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)

“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)

“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)

“Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)

“The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)


Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Edge of Tomorrow, Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Interstellar, Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures)

The Lego Movie, Screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller  (Warner Bros. Pictures)


Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)

Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)

Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)

Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

GUEST POST: Matt Fuchs on Writing a Female Robot

When I drafted my new novella, Rise of Hypnodrome, which takes place in 2039, I couldn’t decide whether the main character, Grady Tenderbath, should order a male or female robot from Amazon.

Mired in a slump at work, Grady is impressed by online reviews about personal robots. They’re praised for their ability to help humans grow as professionals and realize their potential. His robot can be programmed as a man or woman, depending on which gender he thinks he’ll work better with.

Grady’s feelings of self-worth are riding on this robot. The job at his publishing house is the central focus of his life, yet he can’t seem to unlock his creative potential. He is plagued by the sense that he’s underachieving.  

I wanted to make things right for my fictional main character. But I have to admit, I wasn’t only thinking about Grady’s creative potential. I was thinking about myself as a male writer. Did I have it in me to create a compelling character out of a female robot?

It’s hard enough to succeed at writing a human of the opposite gender. I know all about this. Before Hypnodrome, I wrote a novel from a woman’s perspective. According to my writer’s workshop, I missed the mark. When my female character had casual sex and said “dude,” she was too bold and assertive – “not believable.” When she cried, she was too meek – “not likeable.” Ultimately her character wasn’t “rounded enough.”  

I defended my writer ego by imagining my readers were biased. They simply refused to believe a guy could sufficiently understand women to write from the female perspective. Unfortunately for my writer ego, other male authors have succeeded where I failed, and the folks in my writer’s workshops were more than happy to point them out.  

Concluding that writing female characters wasn’t a strength of mine, I decided that Grady would ask for his robot to be programmed as a male. This robot, named Andy, was going to be a very helpful colleague and nurturer of Grady’s talent.

At least, that’s what I planned to have happen in my story outline. The funny thing is, when I actually wrote the scenes, I immediately sabotaged their relationship. Andy lasts only about a week in the Tenderbath household. He’s too aggressive. He thinks in terms of short-term rewards at the expense of strategic, long-term benefits. He’s a male robot in a China shop.  

What happened? Looking back, I think Grady’s frustration with Andy had as much to do with me trying to fulfill my own creative potential, as it did with Grady fulfilling his. I knew it was relatively easy for me to make the robot believable and entertaining if the character was male instead of female.  

Too easy. I sabotaged Andy because, deep-down, I wanted to push myself.

Luckily there was a quick fix, one that didn’t require Grady to mail back his robot in exchange for another, and didn’t require me to go back and rewrite the whole story.

Andy would have a sex change.  

Andy the robot becomes Ashley the robot – no surgery is required, you just press a few buttons. Ashley is more intuitive and strategic than her male predecessor. She could be considered Grady’s “office wife,” a term that carries a connotation of subordinance. But Ashley knows she’s not subordinate as a female, and she doesn’t believe she’s inferior as a robot, either.  

She supports Grady and is vulnerable with him, but she’s also incredibly ambitious. Ashley is no one’s office wife.

When I returned to the same workshop, my readers thought I struck a nice balance of traits with my robot, crafting a more believable portrayal of a female than the one from my previous novel. Not only did Ashley help Grady at his publishing company, she helped me as a writer.

But for my next novel, do I dare take another shot at telling a story from the perspective of a human female? Was there something about Ashley being a robot, some extra margin of error that freed me and my readers to connect with her as a character?  

Perhaps, in the sequel, Ashley becomes a woman.

ABOUT MATT FUCHS
att Fuchs grew up in Nashville, TN, lived in Baltimore and currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Marcy. He majored in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. Matt has been a freelance food writer; co-founded H&H Creative Ventures, the entertainment production company; and serves on the leadership team at CREATE Arts Center in Silver Spring. "Rise of Hypnodrome" is his first novella.

ABOUT RISE OF HYPNODROME
It’s 2039, and a political faction called the Lifestyle Party has risen to power under the Presidency of Deepak Chopra. The new government bans scientific innovation and introduces a set of policies focused entirely on maximizing personal happiness. So why is Grady Tenderbath so unhappy? Believing that he’s fallen short of his professional potential, he buys a personal robot muse to nurture his talent and ego, while his wife Karen, a genetic scientist, becomes more entrenched in her lab. But just when Grady seems on track to solve his career crisis, he discovers a new problem: he’s swooning for the empathetic yet artificial Ashley. Not only that, he’s distracted by haunting visions of Karen transforming into...something else. "Rise of Hypnodrome" explores how future generations might draw from the realm of epigenetic engineering to eventually control their own biology. Whether human or robot, the characters in this cutting-edge science-fiction novella have one thing in common: an irrepressible desire to evolve.

BLOG INTERVIEW: Nalo Hopkinson releases two e-books with Open Road Media

Recently we were introduced to author Nalo Hopkinson, who was kind enough to answer some questions for us here on the blog. Two of her books, The Salt Roads and short story collection Skin Folk, are being published as e-books for the first time through Open Road Media. Editor Betsy Mitchell tells us, "I had the pleasure of introducing Nalo's wondrously imaginative work to the world when her Brown Girl in the Ring won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. It's a delight to be able to bring out the first-ever ebook editions of The Salt Roads and Skin Folk.”

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Nalo! When did you start writing?

NH: You're most welcome. Thanks for asking me. I believe I began writing in my mid-30s. But I'd been an avid reader since I was three years old. Author Samuel R. Delany has said that one learns more about how to write by reading a lot and internalizing models for good writing. I agree. I always have a book or seven on the go. I also watch a lot of fantasy and science fiction media, and read comics, graphic novels, and literary criticism in science fiction and fantasy.

Was fantasy always a genre you were interested in writing in? Who were some early favorites for you?

NH: Yes, fantasy and science fiction about equally. Early favourites (I'm Jamaican-Canadian; I use British spelling conventions) include Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, Terri Windling, Emma Bull.

Tell us about your book, The Salt Roads! What are some of the themes you explore? How would you classify the novel?

NH: In some ways, it's a time travel novel. It's written in four voices in three different times and locations and one timeless place. In some ways, it's the coming-of-age story of an Afro-Caribbean goddess. An exploration of the challenges faced by mixed race Black women throughout history. An honouring of women and men who do sex work, whether by choice or through lack of it. A thank you to the queers and transfolk of colour who fought for freedom during Stonewall. A praise song to Black people's survival despite, oh, everything.

It's really refreshing to hear about something outside the box of typical fantasy. Do you feel like genre fiction is beginning to move away from the Eurocentric, male point of view?

NH: I don't. And it needn't. I lurves me some Neil Gaiman, some China Mieville, some Ian Macdonald. Orson Scott Card should by all means keep writing fiction about smart, misunderstood white boys. He writes them well. (Though I fervently wish he would stop writing irrational and inaccurate hate screeds against queer folk. It's both bad science and a poor way to profess love for one's neighbour.) I don't want fewer white, male voices in the genre. I do want more centrisms, greater inclusion, a larger world view. Fantasy and science fiction are full of good stories. I want more.

Another book of yours coming out on ebook via Open Road is Skin Folk. What are some of your personal favorite short stories from this collection?

NH: You know how many parents don't like to tell you which is their favourite amongst their children? That's how I feel about my stories.

Hah, fair enough! What are you working on these days?

NH: Working on a new novel that my agent is currently shopping around. Collaborating on a short story with Nisi Shawl. If all goes well, it'll appear in a tribute anthology for Samuel R. Delany. Making Black mermaids, boudoir and fantasy dolls in various media: stuffed and painted fabric; plaster; and fabric design. Trying to perfect my skills at macaron-making and baking gluten-free bread. Teaching Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside, which has perhaps the most lovable student body in the world.

Where can people follow you online?

NH: I'm most frequently on Twitter, where my handle is nalo_hopkinson. My website is nalohopkinson.com.

Excerpt of DARK SUN, BRIGHT MOON and Giveaway!

Excerpt of DARK SUN, BRIGHT MOON and Giveaway!

Looking for something a little different to add to your To-Read list? Click through to read an excerpt of the book, and to find out how you can win a copy!

“Dark Sun, Bright Moon describes people isolated in the Andes, without the least notion of outsiders. They evolve an understanding of the universe that is complementary to our own but a great deal wider. The book explores events of a thousand years ago, events which fit with what we know of the region's history,” says author Oliver Sparrow.

In the Andes of a thousand years ago, the Huari empire is sick. Its communities are being eaten from within by a plague, a contagion that is not of the body but of something far deeper, a plague that has taken their collective spirit. Rooting out this parasite is a task that is laid upon Q’ilyasisa, a young woman from an obscure little village on the forgotten borders of the Huari empire.

This impossible mission is imposed on her by a vast mind, a sentience that has ambitions to shape all human life. Her response to this entails confrontations on sacrificial pyramids, long journeys through the Amazonian jungle and the establishment of not just one but two new empires. Her legacy shapes future Andean civilization for the next four hundred years, until the arrival of the Spanish.

Dark Sun, Bright Moon takes the reader on a fascinating adventure that includes human sacrifice, communities eaten from within, a vast mind blazing under the mud of Lake Titicaca, and the rise and fall of empires cruel and kind.

Read More

A love letter to Borderlands Books, but not a goodbye

The first time I saw Borderlands was a month or so after I had moved to San Francisco in 2004. I remember walking down Valencia Street and ogling all the stores I could not yet afford to shop in (moving to an expensive city with no job straight out of college will do that to a girl). I was probably with one of the gals I had moved out with, who couldn't comprehend my excitement at finding a store completely devoted to science fiction and fantasy. 

It was perfect. It was as though it had sprung fully-formed from within the deepest reaches of my nerdy brain. Rows and rows of books. All my favorite authors, and many more that I didn't even know I loved yet. Dark wood. That delicious book smell. A small, completely hairless cat named Ripley.

Here I am nervously getting my book signed by Robin Hobb at Borderlands

Here I am nervously getting my book signed by Robin Hobb at Borderlands

Throughout the years I came as much as I could, though I never became the regular I wanted to be. I wanted it to be my Cheers. That place I could go where everyone would know my name and ask me how I liked the most recent Tad Williams or Robin Hobb. In fact, I met Robin there during a book signing, and it was the most nervous I had ever been speaking with another human being in memory. She was wonderful, of course.

But I didn't go enough. Even now, after S&L has been meeting there monthly for our book club, and even after I've been back many, countless times for signings or just to browse the latest releases, I don't know if they'd even know me or know how much that store has meant.

Borderlands is closing. This physical lynchpin of my obsession for SFF is going away, and I don't know if we can save it. San Francisco is expensive enough as it is, but a recent minimum wage increase (which I voted for...) is their real undoing. Not to mention the on-going stress of being a small, niche bookstore in a town obsessed with the digital. There's going to be a meeting next month at the store to discuss options, and I definitely plan on being there.

Mostly, I just needed to write this to vent. I'm sad, and I'm angry, and I regret not doing more. Alan and Jude have worked so hard to keep this beautiful store open for so many years, and so many wonderful authors have come through its doors. 

Thank you, Borderlands, for being that place for us. But we're not ready to say goodbye just yet!

Sword & Laser meet-up and anthology reading January 2014

Sword & Laser meet-up and anthology reading January 2014

FEATURED REVIEW: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Daniel Eavenson

I've read the first part of the Imperial Radch series, Ancillary Justice, which I enjoyed very much.  It was an excellent introduction to a new world of science fiction, and an interesting arc for a series where an empire would wage a secret war against itself.  Therefore, I went into this second entry with a set of expectations about the content of this novel.  Expectations that were thoroughly thwarted by the author writing something else.

I had expected more intrigue and action.  More surprises and technological horrors that raged through the last third of Ancillary Justice.  I guess I had forgotten the first two thirds of quiet introspection and excellent world building that had proceeded all that fun. Instead, Ancillary Sword takes us to new places, but they are small intimate locations that hold none of the galactic level chess game that the end of the first novel had primed me for.

Ancillary Sword follows the same main character as Ancillary Justice.  The cybernetic former ship AI turned revenge driven walking corpse Breq takes command of a new ship at the behest of the emperor of the titular Radch.  Instead of pursuing the secret war raging at the heart of the empire, Breq decides that personal matters must be seen to, and travels to Athoek station, where the only living relative of his beloved Lieutenant Awn works as a Horticulturalist.

This is an extremely personal story for Breq.  The character is trying to come to grips with a new position while also dealing with the ongoing degradation of the empire due to the secret war.  On Athoek station this is mostly through the examination of class.

Of course, this being a continuation of the themes of Ancillary Justice, class is explored through an additional layer of what it means to be human.  Are you still a worthwhile being if you have been ordered and cataloged by the society around you?  Are you even human if you don't speak the language of civilization?  This of course all being explored by someone who is decidedly not human.  An AI walking around in a stolen body.  It's the best quality of the series and Leckie doesn't let us down with her continued examination of our own society through the lens of the one she created.  The strength of her vision is evident through every carefully chosen word of the novel, continuing the thought provoking work she started in Ancillary Justice.

Even her "trick" of avoiding the naming of characters specific gender is continued here and used to great effect. The true genius of it is that you grow to simply not care who has what set of genes in their pants.  The trick is not to leave you guessing, but to reach the point where you stop guessing, because it just doesn't matter.  Her other themes are done with the same deft hand, not getting in the way of the story, but always there and available to be found without a lot of guessing and pretentious philosophizing. It's one of my favorite points of the series is that Leckie doesn't just ask these questions but shows us the path her created empire takes when it tries to answer basic questions about who is human and what it takes to be human.

As impressed as I was by the quality of the writing I still felt that there were missed opportunities by staying with the small personal stories of Athoek station and not going out into the deep problems of the war inside the Imperial Radch.  I would probably have less concerns if the ideas and concerns of the war weren't constantly being brought up in the story.  If I could have just been left to live in Athoek station I might have come to terms with the breaking of my expectations.  The story, though, constantly takes me back to all of the galactic level problems that Breq is actively avoiding and risking by going to Athoek to deal with his own personal issues.  Issues that I ultimately just found less interesting the possibilities that existed out in the warring universe that Leckie had crafted for us.

This is still an excellent extremely recommendable book, but it loses a star for me for breaking my expectations and then reminding me over and over about how broken they were.  3 out of 5. (Honestly 3.5 but goodreads don't got half numbers :( )

S&L Podcast - #192 - Sexual Experiences with Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett joins us on the show this week to talk about his new book, City of Stairs!

Download link here, or watch the video!

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

We also take questions from you, the audience, and ask him what the heck was going on with the video below:


A Steampunky Giveaway!

Want a signed copy of The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato? We've got three to give away! All you have to do is be a member of the Info Beam. Sign up below by Friday, Sept 12th to be entered to win! 

The Clockwork Dagger is the story of a gifted young healer, Octavia Leander, who sets off on her first mission. Her goal is to get to a plague-ridden village and help the people there, but a series of strange occurrences—including murder—rock the airship she is traveling on. The dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Dagger assassins, her cabin-mate hides secrets (and an alarming penchant for writing pulp novels), and Octavia is beginning to discover that her magical gift for healing may be even more powerful than anyone thought. In short, this airship voyage is much  more eventful than Octavia expected, and she’s stumbled into the midst of a conspiracy that may reach the crown itself.

The Info Beam
The S&L Newsletter 

We won a Parsec Award!

DragonCon was awesome as always, but Tom and I are thrilled that we won a Parsec Award for Sword & Laser! Specifically, the award for Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (General). 

Thank you to the Parsec Committee, all the voters, and of course our listeners! Here's the list of all the finalists and winners for 2014.

S&L Podcast - #187 - How to Win a Hugo

We congratulate all the winners of the Hugos and chat with Aidan Moher about how he took home the best fanzine Hugo for A Dribble of Ink. Veronica milks him for info on how to win, and then we learn a way you can help more people become better writers and win more Hugos!


Download direct link here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?

Tom: Third Shift Amber Lager
Veronica: Hell or High Watermelon

QUICK BURNS

Louie: Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (Orbit) took the top prize of Best Novel. No surprise there. I believe Veronica called this result, months ago. What do you think about the other winners? How many of the nominees have you read?

Best Related Work: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink) and Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher

Alain: The class of 2012 Clarion writers work shop is raising money for the non-profit Clarion Foundation.  The Clarion workshop is a six week course/session where aspiring writers who want to write Science Fiction and Fantasy can hone and improve their craft. Many now famous writers in the field have attended here is a far from exhaustive list. Anyway the class of 2012 have put together an anthology to raise funds. It's a name your price kinda of thing for .99 cents upwards. Luke R. Pebler who appears in the S&L anthology has a story in here as well as 16 other writers. A very cheap way to check out some up and coming writers.

Paul: July is biggest comic month in history making $53 million and the number one selling comic? Rocket Racoon #1. Rack up another one for the "Unknown Property" of Guardians of the Galaxy. P.S. Groot debuted in November 1960 in Tales to Astonish #13. Years Before Spider-Man, The X-Men or every one of the Avengers except for the original Captain America series (March 1941). Just For Posterity Ronan The Accuser (August 1967). The Original far future Guardians of the Galaxy which was a completely different team (January 1969). Adam Warlock (The already announced GotG 2? :) (April 1972) Drax (1973) Gamora (1975) Star Lord and Rocket Racoon both (1976)

terpkristin: Jennifer Lee, who co-wrote Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen, has been tapped to work on the screenplay for a live-action version of A Wrinkle in Time. I loved loved loved loved this book when I was a kid and am cautiously optimistic about this project...

George R.R. Martin Says Game of Thrones Readers Have Already Predicted the Series Ending

Syfy's Childhood's End Adaptation Gets Closer and Closer to Happening

PICKS

Lindsay writes: Prior to reading The Name of the Wind, I read: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis: Picked it up after listening to an interview with the author on the Skiffy and Fanty show and it was excellent YA Fantasy. Every time the main character blinks his perspective switches to a girl in a secondary fantasy world.

August 26 - The Broken Eye (Lightbringer) by Brent Weeks and Echopraxia by Peter watts (continuing on from Blindsight) Lock in by John Scalzi

September 2 - Sleeping Late on Judgement Day (Bobby Dollar) by Tad Williams

Find more upcoming releases at swordandlaser.com/calendar

BARE YOUR SWORD

SFF Art for framing?

Finally got my @swordandlaser Anthology! Love the dedication. #swordandlaser #book #anthology #scifi #fantasy http://t.co/9rOcCHVKVN

Sword and Laser do #LonCon3 ! @swordandlaser http://t.co/ahzB5y3SXf

@swordandlaser Just got this. Looks like a fantastic lineup. http://t.co/V2Bg71q3qJ

BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION

Next Month's book pick! Stories of Your Life and others by Ted Chiang

This month's Pick:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The always important casting thread

Theories from: The Re-Readers' Thread posted by Jack

ADDENDUMS

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FEATURED REVIEW: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Kaleb Russell

After reading this book, I‘ve realized how amazing Chuck Wendig is. Somehow he manages to write great books and give out even greater writing advice through his blog at www.terribleminds.com, which you should definitely check out after reading this review.

Deep down, under the streets of New York City, lies the Great Below, the Descent, or the Underworld. It is a great expanse of deadly denizens, monstrous cults, and even the Gods themselves who are trapped in the eternal hell.  That is until the humans, accidentally, open the gates to hell; allowing said creatures into the infinite above to rape and kill any and all the humans who reside there; to feed on their pain and make the world for humans a living hell. And these deadly creatures don’t care if they used us up completely; they only want to cause chaos on the world above them. 

Then there is The Organization. A variety of different gangs, formed together in order to keep control of prostitution, crime, and drug trade in the city of New York. The main drug being Cerulean, otherwise known as The Blue Blazes. One of the Five Occulted Pigments originating from the Great Below; it gives the user enhanced strength and allows them to strip away the veil the monsters use to hide themselves from anyone who hunts them.  One of whom happens to be one of the strongest, most vicious thug of The Organization.

He goes by the name of Mookie Pearl. Butcher, bar owner, breaker of bones (both human and demon). Don’t let the name fool you. He’s an intimidating, hulking figure who is only good at bashing the heads of anyone who trifles with The Organization. Or his estranged daughter, Nora, who comes to Mookie telling him she plans to change the game and become the next big crime boss of New York. Right after that Mookie learns the boss of The Organization, Konrad Zoladski, has terminal lung cancer. The Boss knows he doesn’t have much time left on this earth, so he decides that his grandson, Casimir, will become his successor and take control of The Organization and all that comes with it. But Casimir is not ready and he knows it. It’s then that Casimir comes to Mookie for help. He asks Mookie to find another one of the Five Occulted pigments, a purple substance known as Death’s Head, which is said to cure any disease or even bring the user back to life. The fact that no one has even seen this Pigment makes Mookie skeptical, but when he starts searching for it he finds more than he’s looking for and chaos ensues. 

The Blue Blazes was a spectacular book. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but after I continued reading it I fell in love. The world building in the book was good. We learn the origin of the Organization, the monsters that inhabit the Great Below and the Five Occulted Pigments from Mookie as he goes around the city, searching for something that might not even exist. Most of the information is given to us through the means of a journal entry by a man named John Atticus Okes, a man who delved into the Great Below and never returned, at the beginning of every chapter. I found it helpful and felt eager to read John’s story as he slowly goes mad in the Great Below. With those we could move on in the story rather than have most of it introducing the world and more time was spent developing the characters. 

Another thing I loved about the book were the action scenes. I felt they were fast paced and well executed. It felt like I was actually there to witness the battle between Mookie and all the creatures of the night. My favorite thing about The Blue Blazes was the family dynamic between Mookie and his daughter Nora who is constantly at her dad’s throat for abandoning her and her mother. I don’t believe Nora’s character was as fleshed out as I’d liked it. She acts like a spoiled brat throughout most of the novel and even admits it from time to time. But even with that I still enjoyed how Mookie was always willing to save his daughter even with all the things she’d done. Some fathers wouldn’t go through that much trouble to help their children when they are in dire need of help. It made my heart warm when reading it. Mookie isn’t the big bad monster everyone makes him out to be. In truth, he’s a man who loves his family and friends. I sympathized with him whenever something went wrong with him on his journey. 
Honestly, I have nothing to gripe about. This was a great book and when I try to think of any negatives, my mind draws a blank. 

Final Verdict: Why are you still here?! Stop reading this review and go out to buy The Blue Blazes this minute! It’s an amazing book and you’d have to be doped up on the Blue not to see it. 

And please let me know if you found this review helpful as well as what you feel like I need to work on. Thank you for reading.

FEATURED REVIEW: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Derek Brown

It turns out that you can go home again. Or at least you can if you're Stephen King.

I just finished this, King's sequel to a much earlier work. The Shining is the story of a small child, trapped in a world so much more dangerous than the one other kids inhabit, because he has a special talent. A power that supernatural forces want to consume. In Doctor Sleep, we get to see that small child, now grown, haunted by the same affliction that nearly drove his own father to murder his wife and son. Not his power, but the drinking problem he now has, the only thing he has yet found to suppress his terrible, awesome power, and keep the ghosts of his childhood quiet. 

To me, this story is largely about demons. Recognizing the worst of them for what they are, and realising that you are never alone with them.

Its also a story about another small child, afflicted (or gifted) with her own set of abilities, and because ka is a wheel, and it always turns, this little girl is also chased by supernatural forces eager to consume her. 

I can't overstate how much I enjoyed this book. I first read The Shining over 20 years ago, and its one that's always really resonated with me. Getting to revisit the landscape of that work with King, seeing what happened to Danny Torrance after the events at the Overlook Hotel, and finding out how his life turned out because of it was a lot of fun. 

Fans of King's other novels will find a healthy helping of the usual Easter eggs here as well. If you've read any of his other books, you'll enjoy the many references to King's integrated universe. 

The only item to note (and it's not a negative, but it is a warning), would be that I consider either reading The Shining or seeing the original Kubrick movie a definite prerequisite to reading this book. Preferably both, so you'll know the correct version of the story that King uses to jump from, but also so that you'll have the awesome imagery from the movie to help light the way. 

FEATURED REVIEW: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Carolina Gomez

Freedom, like anything else, is relative.

Why I read this book

Last year (2013) I read my first book from Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman, and loved it. The way she threw fiction elements while making a very impressive critique of society was amazing for me, and so I wanted to keep reading her work. The Handmaid's Tale has been mentioned several times as an iconic part of her work and when I saw it on my recommended on Audible it was a no brainer to get myself a copy.

What the book is about

The book is set in a dystopian future, taking place mostly in what used to be Massachusetts. After a "terrorist" attack, a theocratic, Christian regime has taken over. Women have lost any right they might've had and all "sinners" (homosexuals, people who committed adultery, people of other faiths) have been either killed or "re educated" (are you cringing already?) . The story is told by a woman we learn to know as Offred, this implying that she is a possession of a man with Fred on his surname. Offred has been made a Handmaid which in this new country, more than servant, implies child bearer. It is explained through the book that due to chemical contamination, radiation and other factors, procreation has been in declined in the country, and hence the government have established that officials not only have a wife, but also access to women (the handmaids) that will carry their child, sort off surrogate mothers. After delivery, the child is given to the wife to raise. Offred's destiny depends on her submission and her ability to bear children.

First impressions 

Listening to this book was hard, mostly because of the way women are treated, but also because you feel that this speculative work of fiction could easily take place again (references to other theocratic regimes are easily spotted, particularly Iran). Jumps from present to past are sometimes abrupt, but it carries a good feeling of how train of thought sometimes takes place and, in my case at least, makes the connection with the protagonist even deeper. That type of writing made me feel pain, angst and helplessness as Offred was feeling them too.

Final thoughts

Is hard for me to put into words my final thoughts. See, I have a lot of feelings when I think of this book, but they are not easy to put into paper, simply because they touch so deep. But let's try.

I felt rage as a woman, at to how women were treated. I've read some other reviews saying "well this would never happen; oh our society would never let this happen to women". And yet look at all the contraception legislation in the USA, most of the definitions are being taken by male politicians, and people are going with it.

I felt afraid of this being a plausible thing, maybe not right now where I am, but somewhere in the world there is right now a totalitarian movement, feeding, slowly maybe, and growing and getting more and more powerful. There are things that seem to happen suddenly when you are far away, but is just because you weren't in site to see the tiny changes that carried a big one. And this applies to any type of changes, positive or negative, particularly since this label is so subjective. The critic about how money was not physical anymore hit a stroke in me. I never thought about how I rely on plastic more and more. Not on credit, but I use my debit card most of the time and hence my contact with physical money has been decreasing more and more.

I felt sad at the different situations Offred had to go through, leaving her past behind, having so many memories, so many loved ones that she lost, almost overnight.

I felt a bit frustrated at the end of the book, because I wanted more closure, but at the same time, the way the author rounds the whole thing up, made me "forgive" the not knowing.

I loved Claire Danes as a narrator. At first I thought her tone was a bit flat, but this was at very beginning when the character was just stating facts. As emotions surged, as different characters appeared, so did new tones, new inflictions in her voice that made me get more into the whole story.

Nobody dies of lack of sex, is lack of love we die from