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.

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

Congrats to the Nebula Award winners!

This past weekend, Josh Lawrence and I went down to San Jose for the Nebula Awards. While there, we interviewed several attendees, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Gene Wolfe, and Joe Haldeman. Those interviews will be coming up as podcasts soon, so stay tuned!

Best Novel winner Kim Stanley Robinson with Joe Haldeman.

Best Novel winner Kim Stanley Robinson with Joe Haldeman.

In the meantime, let's congratulate the winners of the 2012 Nebula Awards!, as posted on Tor.com! Winners in bold.


  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
  • Ironskin, Tina Connolly (Tor)
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)


  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
  • “All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
  • “Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF 11-12/12)
  • “Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)


  • “Close Encounters,” Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
  • “The Pyre of New Day,” Catherine Asaro (The Mammoth Books of SF Wars)
  • “The Waves,” Ken Liu (Asimov’s 12/12)
  • The Finite Canvas,” Brit Mandelo (Tor.com 12/5/12)
  • Swift, Brutal Retaliation,” Meghan McCarron (Tor.com 1/4/12)
  • Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 8/22/12)
  • “Fade to White,” Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 8/12)

Short Story:

  • “Immersion,” Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
  • “Robot,” Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
  • “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
  • “Nanny’s Day,” Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
  • “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
  • “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species,” Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” Cat Rambo (Near + Far)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)
  • The Avengers, Joss Whedon (director) and Joss Whedon and Zak Penn (writers), (Marvel/Disney)
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard (director), Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (writers) (Mutant Enemy/Lionsgate)
  • The Hunger Games, Gary Ross (director), Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray (writers), (Lionsgate)
  • John Carter, Andrew Stanton (director), Michael Chabon, Mark Andrews, and Andrew Stanton (writers), (Disney)
  • Looper, Rian Johnson (director), Rian Johnson (writer), (FilmDistrict/TriStar)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

  • Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
  • Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
  • Black Heart, Holly Black (McElderry; Gollancz)
  • Above, Leah Bobet (Levine)
  • The Diviners, Libba Bray (Little, Brown; Atom)
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst (S&S/McElderry)
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
  • Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
  • Every Day, David Levithan (Knopf)
  • Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
  • Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
  • Above World, Jenn Reese (Candlewick)

Solstice Awards were awarded to editor Ginjer Buchanan and astronomer and entertainer Carl Sagan, the latter of which was accepted by his son Nick Sagan.

The Kevin O'Donnell Jr. Service Award was awarded to Michael Payne.

The winners are announced at SFWA’s 48th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, held Thursday through Sunday, May 16 to May 19, 2013 at the San Jose Hilton in San Jose, California. Borderland Books hosted the mass autograph session from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17th at the San Jose Hilton.

As announced earlier this year, Gene Wolfe was the recipient of the 2012 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award for his lifetime contributions to, and achievements in, the field. Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Joe Abercrombie's The First Law (The Graphic Novel) - Interview

As listeners of the podcast know, both Tom and I are big fans of Joe Abercrombie, and especially of The First Law trilogy. So when I found out that Joe was working on a new graphic novel based on Logen Ninefingers and his (mis)adventures (from the man himself, no less) I immediately wanted to learn more.

Joe was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, which you can learn more about at First Law Comic.


First off, congrats on the graphic novel! That's very exciting!

It's been a long time in the pipeline - maybe 18 months since the deal was first signed - so it's great to see it go out into the world.

Who first approached you to make The First Law into a graphic novel?

Rich Young from Blind Ferret, who also edited, put the artistic team together and brought in Chuck Dixon to adapt.  What interested me in particular about Rich's pitch, quite apart from his creative vision and his love for the books, was Blind Ferret's track record with webcomics and digital distribution.

Had anyone else come to you wanting to do that before, or was that something you had considered on your own?

I'd had a couple of much more traditional approaches, but the traditional comics market is pretty small and steadily dwindling, and obviously crowded with a lot of very powerful and long-established brands, I just didn't see a traditional approach getting enough momentum to make the work worthwhile.

Will this be a print edition, or digitally distributed? Both? And what will the release schedule be like?

It was the method of distribution that really sold this idea to me.  In essence there's a triple approach.  Firstly we're going to be serialising the adaptation, free to all comers, at www.firstlawcomic.com.  The first twelve pages have gone up already, and there'll be new pages posted every monday, wednesday and friday, hopefully for several years to come, given that this is a pretty detailed and comprehensive adaptation.  I just right away felt that, with free distribution, there was the potential to create a lot of goodwill and get a lot of people through the door and involved with it, and that it was potentially a good thing for the books as a whole.  

But for those who aren't satisfied with a page at a time and want to get a little ahead of the game, we're also going to be distributing whole issues, for between 99 cents and $2.99, via ComiXology, which will come with guided view and a package of inks, pencils and designs as a bonus with each issue. 

Finally, we'll be collecting every four issues into hard-copy collections, with further bonus material.  Exact details of those to be confirmed...

One of the great things about reading is the ability to visualize your favorite characters. How do you feel about nailing down the descriptions of the characters on the comic page? Have they ended up the way you pictured them in your head, and did you have input on that for the graphic novel?

Someone was foolish enough to offer me total editorial control, but I've tried to take a reassuringly firm yet lovingly gentle touch with it.  I think when you work with an artist you need to give them the freedom to draw it the way they see it, to let them interpret the work the way they want to.  And as a writer you don't always have entirely vivid pictures of every character and location.  So some designs were perfect right off.  Others were surprising, but fitted.  Others needed some tinkering with.  But generally, Andie Tong, the artist, has an amazing eye for costume and location design, and I've really been able to say yes, yes, yes to a lot of things and let him produce his vision of the books, given extra verve and variety by Pete Pantazis' colours.  So there'll certainly be some things that keen readers of the trilogy will see differently, but as a whole it's an adaptation that I'm very pleased with and hugely proud of.

Obviously the story needs to be trimmed down for this manner of storytelling. What was that process like? How do you pick what makes the cut?

Rich brought in Chuck Dixon, who's a hugely experienced comics writer, to do the adaptation.  He's obviously got a great sense for what to pick out from a scene, what to show and how, what angles to use to get the action across.  But obviously I know the books and the characters better than anyone, so I'd go over each script in some detail trying to keep as much sense of the books and the voices of the characters as possible, and maybe changing something here or there that would be important long term.  It's going to be a detailed adaptation, 16 issues for the Blade Itself alone, so it hasn't been necessary to really lose that much in terms of whole scenes.  it's amazing how much prose you can boil down into one carefully designed panel.  In general the whole process has been quite an education for me.  One that will continue for some time to come.

Do you have any plans to make any of your other books into comics?

At the current rate we probably won't be finished with The First Law for several years to come, so I'm keeping my energy for that, for the time being.  I've got a fair few irons in the fire with book projects as well, of course.  But I certainly wouldn't rule out adaptations of the other books.  We'll see how this one goes...

International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club!

Hey ladies! If you've been looking for more geeky-inclined female friends, check out the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club. Here's how it works:

This is a new project for us and we are figuring it out as we go along. We are just two nerdy dames reaching out into the vast, tangled web to see if we can find some new friends and help others find new friends too. The basic idea is you fill the form in, then we will collate everyone's info and we then we'll match you up with someone in the same age range with similar interests to you. Then you can swap addresses and get putting pens to paper!

Sounds like fun! Sign-up is open through April 1st, so get to it!

Season One of S&L Video coming to an end!

The S&L studio team does jazz hands.

The S&L studio team does jazz hands.

As many of you may know from the most recent audio podcast, the video edition of S&L is coming to an end (for now). Huge thanks to Geek & Sundry for making the whole thing possible, for our friends at Pixel Corps for the production and post-production services (and for being awesome in general), and to Fonco Creative for bringing our set (and Lem) to life!

Tom and I are looking into new ways to keep the show alive going forward, so don't fret! We have our hands full right now will getting the anthology off the ground, but we promise you we're working on it.

Episodes of the video show will continue through the end of March, and you can always keep up with the book club on Goodreads and the audio podcast!

Thanks for watching!

The Sword & Laser Anthology

We've been talking about it for years, but now it's actually going to be a real thing! That's right, we're officially announcing the Sword & Laser Anthology!

We'll be starting open submissions in March, but here's what you need to know:

1. We're looking for unpublished, new material.

2. Genres: science fiction, fantasy, and everything in between.

3. Word count preferably between 1500-7500 (though more or less will not disqualify you).

DON'T SEND US ANYTHING YET! We won't even LOOK at it until we announce the open call. Just start thinking about what you'd like to submit. We wanted to give you some warning, but you'll have time, we promise!


The S&L Wiki is now live!


Good news, everyone! The Sword and Laser Wiki is live!

As with most wikis, this is open for anyone to edit, and a lot of work has already been done on the book list and glossary page, but chime in if there's anything else you'd like to add!

Also, did you see the amazing art Scott Johnson made for us for Nerdtacular '12? He's the best, as we'll be there recording a live audio show!


We need help!!!

Hey folks! 

So Tom and I are looking for someone in the community to lend a helping hand around the farm. We'd like to hire (YES, HIRE) a production assistant to help us with guest booking, asset gathering, event coordination, and other tasks. 

We need someone who is extremely detail oriented, available around eight hours a week, and obviously has a love of science fiction and fantasy! 

You don't need to be local to SF, though it would be easier if you were in a timezone that lent itself well to collaboration. 

Please email us at feedback@swordandlaser.com with the subject line "Production assistant." This will be a paying gig, though we cannot shower you in gold (sorry). 

Serious inquiries only, and don't fret if we don't get back to you immediately! 


The Maester's Path

As you all know, HBO is doing a huge push for The Game of Thrones miniseries (YAAAAY!!) on The Maester's Path, an interactive website where you can solve puzzles to obtain exclusive early looks and info about the show.

The third puzzles came out this week, and it deals with a very important task: defending the Wall.

Join me here, and discuss the puzzles on our GoodReads page. 

Moving our discussion forums!

Tom and I have been discussing the Ning group lately, and we've decided that Goodreads.com is much better suited for handling our types of discussions. They have really great tools on the site for book clubs, and we think it would be a good place for us to grow going forward.


Now, we imagine some of you are very attached to the Ning page, so we're not going to be deleting it. We also know that joining yet another site can be a pain. But Goodreads is dedicated to books in a huge way, and they have the resources to enrich our discussions.


We already have 77 members signed up! If you're interested in taking the discussion there, please join in. Tom and I will be devoting most of our discussion time over on that site from now on.


Our new look!

We've been working for a few days trying to move everything over to our new home at SquareSpace! Thanks to the folks over there for designing our new site, which we think fits the overall themes of our little club quite nicely.

We're still working on getting the podcast buttons and Twitter links set up, but what do you think so far? Like the new design? Some of you may still get the old page while the DNS changes take place, but by the end of the day it should be good to go for everyone.