GUEST POST: Ragnarok; It all begins with the end of the world

Guest post by W H H Baker

Norse mythology is unusual among the well-known sets of legends from antiquity in that it doesn’t have life carrying on as usual until the end of time. Instead, the world ends in a truly epic battle where the gods will descend from their lofty thrones and ultimately lose a bloody encounter with all the dark creatures which inhabit the world. The legend says that the world is then ravaged by natural disasters and reshaped.

Although a touch bleak, I found myself wondering what it would have been like to be left behind, after an event like that. I should probably explain why my mind was travelling in this direction. After university I spent a year in Beijing learning Mandarin. Through that time I could see photos of all of my friends moving forward with life on the other side of the world, which left me, perhaps understandably, feeling a little left behind myself. Given that the most significant characters meet famously bloody ends during Ragnarok, I decided that it would make more sense for the survivor to be someone a little lower down the divine scale.

Fortunately for me, Norse mythology has the Valkyries, shield-maidens who bring the souls of worthy warriors slain in battle to serve in Odin’s host. I imagined a battle hardened character cast adrift in an unfamiliar world, a cold and bitter heroine with unending ages ahead of her. The more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with the character; so much so that I was convinced that she needed her own suitably epic tale, a true Viking saga. That was how Skjarla was born.

Inspiration strikes in the strangest ways sometimes. I was listening to my music, when the KT Tunstall song ‘Invisible Empire’ shuffled on and sparked everything going. Within the song are the lines ‘I wear a rusting crown, and I know this dynasty is falling’. I imagined the lost heir to a long since shattered kingdom, bound by fate to resurrect the forgotten dynasty. Every piece needs a villain, so I borrowed from another of the Norse myths, that of the hero Sigurd and the dragon Fafnir, Sigurd’s bloodline also gave me the dynasty I was looking for.

One of my favourite things about writing fantasy is that you start with a completely blank slate; whatever you want in there in terms of cultures, magic or monsters is fair game. I have found that one of the best things to do when writing fantasy is to start with a map, no matter how crude the artwork. For me it has two main impacts: 

  • Firstly, as I lay out the world or region, it helps me to think what cultures live where and how they interact. In the Rusted Crown, I have borrowed liberally from various periods of history, sometime directly, sometimes more as a starting point for a more fantastical version of reality. I was particularly happy with Romans who I based on the ninth legion who famously disappeared into the mists of Britain, and emerged from the spell which had bound them there when it was shattered by the remaking of the world.
  • Secondly, I find that it helps hugely with the flow of the narrative, knowing where your characters are and where they are trying to get to. I find that it helps me think more logically from their point of view, rather than just having them go as the crow flies.

Before I started writing, I realised that there could be an inconsistency between Skjarla’s character and the nature of the quest I was about to send her on. Skjarla wouldn’t just end up helping some penniless heir out of the goodness of her heart, there needed to be more to it. I ended up circling back to Fafnir, the dragon slain by Sigurd. A dead dragon on its own is not much good as a villain, so his servants would be trying to recover the teeth taken as trophies from when the dragon fell. With the dragon reassembled it could be resurrected, with suitably unpleasant consequences for the world. I didn’t think it would unreasonable for Sigurd’s heir to have one of the Fangs, and for Skjarla to want to protect it.

One side effect of dragons having a fairly substantial number of teeth, and those teeth being scattered around the world, was that Skjarla and her companions were suddenly going to be doing a lot of travelling, trying to prevent the dragon from being resurrected. As I plotted out the skeleton of how the tale would unfold, I realised that with all of the plot threads it meant that there were almost five tales within the overarching story. So I made the decision to devote separate books to each, rather than having the climax of each section lost within the book. Fortunately I have read a fair few fantasy series, so I hope that I have got the right balance between leaving enough left unsaid to make it compelling to read the second book, without it being so much of a cliff-hanger as to be downright infuriating. I leave it to you to judge if I have been successful.

About W H H Baker

William grew up in Hong Kong and the UK, before studying Natural Sciences at Durham University. He currently lives in London with his fiancé, Emily, and is training to be an auditor. William is also mad about rugby and spends much of his time with his head buried in a book.

About The Ragnarok Saga: The Rusted Crown

Ragnarok. The Norse world is ending. The Valkyrie, Skjarla, is cursed to survive the remaking of the world by the Dark goddess Hel. For centuries Skjarla wanders Midgard: monster slayer and mercenary, buried in grief and rage.

Four hundred years later, Skjarla finds herself in the small town of Lonely Barrow. There, hidden in the northern forests at the edge of the Haemocracy, she takes on a contract which proves more complicated than she could possibly have imagined.

Joined by the exiled heir to the New Roman Empire, a crusading Loptalfar and mercenaries running from their pasts. The Ragnarok Saga is a captivating journey which will test the very limits of love, endurance and courage.

For more information about the book please visit: 

S&L Podcast - #249 - Secrets of All the Birds in the Sky w/ Charlie Jane Anders

We’re joined by Charlie Jane Anders to wrap up her book, All the Birds in the Sky. Did you know Kevin has a secret history? What anime inspired Ernesto? These things, as well as all the winners of all the awards on this episode.

Download episode here!
Tom: Irish Car Fuse (Carolan's Creme and Jameson's)    
Veronica: James Pepper 1776 Rye    
Ramez Naam's Apex Is The Winner Of The Philip K. Dick Award  
Reminder: Hugo Award Nominations Close March 31st
WINNERS: 2015 Aurealis Awards    
WINNERS: 2016 Ditmar Awards
WINNERS: 2015 BSFA Awards
Louie: Andy Weir wrote fan fiction* for Ready Player One, and it is now canon. You can read "Lacero" here. Although, spoilers for Ready Player One.   

Joanna: The Warrior's Apprentice is being reprinted for its 30th anniversary. It came out June of 1986, which means that if you count from publish date, I'm only a week or so older. Considering that it's still my favorite all-time scifi series, this makes me happy. 
This episode of Sword and Laser is brought to you by Scott Sigler and his new book ALIGHT, Book II of the Generations Trilogy. Listen to an excerpt of ALIVE, the first book in the series, and watch the book trailer!

BIG thanks to everybody who voted in the march madness tournament!    
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab    
We'll kick them off in two weeks OR if you pledge $5 an episode at you can get the book briefing right now
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders


Tom has a book on Inkshares called Pilot X!    
Our show is made possible by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to    
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at    

March Madness has ended in a TIE!

Four rounds, thousands of votes, and it came down to two: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

And then they tied

Supreme Laser explains:
There appears to be white smoke emanating from the chamber.... wait no I see black smoke too... and pink... and what is that? Violet? And fuschia? Oh that is definitely ultramarine. And now some russet... and hmm how did they nail burnt sienna smoke. Well it is burnt. I suppose that was easy. And forest green. Beautiful. OK so it's basically a unicorn farting a rainbow.

I'm consulting the great book of Empressal Emanations and Statistical Manual V and it says here......Both.

I guess we're doing both.

Veronica and I will start reading A Darker Shade of Magic since we've never done a book from Ms. Schwab before. And The Fifth Season will be the ALT read and our second Ms. Jemisin pick! We'll both make our best effort to read it as well and it will have its own discussion section for those who'd like to make it their primary book.

So there you go. Who could have predicted???

Thanks everybody for participating. This was a lot of fun and I'm glad most of you had fun with us. We'll definitely do it again! 

Thanks for playing, everyone! 

S&L Podcast - #247 - Parents Just Weren’t Understood

We're checking in on All The Birds in The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and why some people were put off by Patrica and Laurence's parents. Trust us, so were Patricia and Laurence. Also it's March Madness and we have the hot inside track on the April fantasy winner and how YOU can pick it.

Download direct here!

Tom: Lagunitas IPA    
Veronica: James Pepper 1776 Rye Whiskey  
An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel is out today!

Dharmakirti: Ian McShane has been cast as Wednesday in the American Gods adaptation for Starz. YES! 
Alex: Good news for everybody who like non-western science-fiction and fantasy (like me), several drool-worthy translations are being released this year. Among them are the final volume in both the Three-Body Problem trilogy and the Night Watch series. And the never before translated to english book by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, The Doomed city.
Joanna: Lois McMaster Bujold was interviewed by David Larson for the NZ Herald. A pull quote I found interesting: 
"The great game change came, of course, with Amazon's Kindle, and it's been huge. I now make as much or more - every month! - from my [totalled] e-sales as I used to make every six months from my paper sales. I have no idea how long this manna from e-heaven will last but it's holding steady at the moment."
Tamahome: Lots of books from Peter F. Hamilton this year (SF April Madness?), including the conclusion to the Commonwealth Saga (Sep. 27 in US)
SFWA Names Sir Terry Pratchett as Recipient of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award
Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Launch New Website, Offer Cool Stuff
Tamahome: V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows Debuts at #15 on the New York Times Bestseller List
March Madness update
Vampire Secrets
Dear Veronica and Tom,

In the acknowledgements for All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders says she will come to your house and act the book out with finger puppets if there are confusing or disliked parts. I think you should take her up on it for the wrap up.

Jenny Colvin

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Amy: I hate it, but I love it. I'm so confused!

Mr: Too self-aware
Michele:  Diversity and SJW themes
Congrats to the winners of copies of "The Life Engineered":
Adam G.
Mark M.
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to    
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at  

S&L Podcast - #246 - The 34 Rules of Robotics with J-F Dubeau

We chat with J-F Dubeau, author of The Life Engineered, first book in the Sword and Laser Inkshares collection. Find out whether the thousand year old robots in the book had any real life inspirations and whether they have sex. We're guessing you're slightly more interested in one of those questions than the other. 

Download direct here!

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at

GUEST POST: From dark matter to Dark Matters -- Wandering to a Not-So-Distant Future

By Michael Dow

In early 2016, I released my debut novel, Dark Matters, a science fiction/thriller set in the not-so-distant future of 2075. The story line for the book had simmered in the recesses of my mind for more than a decade, as I toiled from the bowels to the board rooms of corporate America. When I finally broke free, and began writing in earnest, I soon realized that those frayed tendrils of a story–unraveling the mystery of dark matter, and the implications for humanity–were going to require serious scientific research. 

So I dug in, trying (often with limited success) to better understand the science of dark matter, dark energy, multi-verses, and quantum theory. And that’s when things got interesting. As it turns out, I liked the research. An article on dark matter is just a click away from stories about cosmic rays, which then leads to cosmological inflation, the big bang theory, and a host of other fascinating sitcoms. 

But I digress…

In the end, what I discovered was not just the science of dark matter, but the foundation for future world where this discovery could take place. I wanted the story to take place in a future near enough to be easily recognizable, but far enough that I could take some creative license with the current state of affairs on Earth. This led me to a timeframe that was fifty to sixty years in the future, where futurist “experts” predict several interesting events will converge:

  • A world population of ten billion;
  • Computers more powerful than the human brain, at a fraction of today’s cost;
  • Full-scale space exploration, to include a moon base, space hotels, and asteroid mining;
  • The availability of fusion power; and,
  • The world’s first trillionaire.

Just to name a few.

It was this last one that caught my eye – a trillion dollars. Like they say in Congress, now we’re talking real money. What could a trillion dollars buy you? And not today–but fifty years from now, when technology is several orders of magnitude less expensive? That kind of money, with that level of technology… it sent chills down my spine. And it was hard to read about that kind of wealth, without plunging into the current debate surrounding income inequality, and the widening wealth gap. It was an intriguing hook for a book. Before I knew it, my story about dark matter had become a story about Dark Matters–a handful of trillionaires, playing benevolent dictator in a world where income inequality had truly run amok.

This was an area where my background and experience could be put to good use. During my time as a management consultant and CEO, I’ve seen some of the best–and unfortunately, some of the worst–that corporate America has to offer. And through my research, I discovered that the world’s 1,500+ billionaires are growing their wealth much faster than the richest one percent; they are doing to the one percent, what the one percent is doing to the ninety-nine percent. On top of that, over the past several years, 95% of all new wealth has gone to the richest one percent. If we stay on this path for fifty more years, a handful of the über-elite, in the right positions, and with the latest technology, really could have an iron grip on world events. I had stumbled onto an ideal combination–the story of a world-changing scientific discovery, set in a world where a few of the elite could very well prevent that kind of change.

Before I knew it, I had a finished manuscript. Or at least, I thought I did. My editor gave me one final task. He saw the dystopian world of 2075 as a leading character in the story, and critical to conveying the magnitude of the dark matter discovery. He asked me to do more research–and to identify fifty additional “fascinating facts” about the world of 2075. Then, he challenged me to insert them into the story–in as few words as possible. It was a remarkable exercise, to see how much world-building, character development, and storytelling could be done in just a few words. And it led to some of my favorite moments in the book–for instance, when the female lead comments, “It’s an oxymoron, like Glacier National Park.” Or when a couple of teenage girls prank their mother with a dead rat, created from dad’s nano-technology printer. I didn’t quite manage to insert all fifty (there are only forty-five chapters, after all), but the attentive reader should find dozens, addressing topics from climate change to robotics, space exploration, and the future of the Internet.

Did it all come together, in the end? That’s for the reader to decide, I suppose. But it worked for me–not just in writing the story, but in the process that got me there. Now I let myself wander (a little…) when I’m doing research, and I don’t carry (as much…) guilt when I do. And though I’m still a neophyte at this whole writing thing, I know I’ve found a great tool for my own arsenal.

Back to my research; I hear they’re now blaming dark matter for wiping out the dinosaurs. Thanks for listening!


Michael Dow spent 25+ years in corporate America, in roles running the gamut from management consultant to CEO. He has worked at companies ranging in size from start-up to over one billion dollars in revenue, and in locations across the globe, from Washington DC to Saudi Arabia. Dark Matters is his first work of fiction (though his competitors have accused him of writing fiction for decades). Mike lives in Traverse City, Michigan, with his wife and two teenage daughters.


Rudolph "Rudy" Dersch is the newly minted CEO of the world's largest, multi-trillion-dollar corporate conglomerate. But the job comes with an unexpected twist–an invitation to join the Consortium, a small, secretive group of global elites who effectively decide what's best for the rest of humanity. How does Rudy's struggle to reconcile business and family impact the world's future? And who, if anyone, can break the Consortium's iron grip on the status quo?

The answer may lie with a renegade physicist, close to unraveling one of the universe's greatest mysteries. And a headstrong art curator, driven to find the meaning behind her increasingly compelling visions. From a life-changing moment in a crowded Singapore marketplace, to the business end of an assassin's gun, they face a power beyond any the world has ever seen. To survive, they'll have to decipher the truth about dark matter–before the Consortium can achieve its ruinous end game.

S&L Podcast - #245 - Terry Pratchett Helps Us Feel Better

We're very excited about the debut of our first Sword and Laser Inkshares collection book, The Life Engineered by JF Dubeau. We're a little bummed that Tom forgot to bring more than water to drink. We're super-excited about the Nebula Award nominees. And we were a little bummed at some of the reactions to The Sword of Shannara. But Vickie helped us out with an amazing Terry Pratchett quote, and all was well in Swordandlaserville.

Download file here!
Tom:    Water
Veronica:     Hot Toddy
The Life Engineered is out today!    
Andy (and Tamahome)The Dark Tower movie has a release date! January 13, 2017
Rob: Nebula nominees are out    
Nokomis.FL The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced that John Hodgman will be Toastmaster at the 2016 Nebula Awards Weekend, the 50th anniversary of the Awards, to be held May 12-15, 2016.    
Sandra: Fans of Leigh Brackett can now own "The Book of Stark", a collection of novels and short stories about space adventure Eric John Stark!     
"Hi guys - I'm sure I should be more on top of things and post this on Reddit or something. I love the show and am glad to support it on Patreon. I thought you might be interested in a pretty cool fundraiser with a great SciFi twist that I learned about. Geeky Giving ( is raising money for the Barrow Neurological Institute by getting SciFi writers and artists to create short stories and artwork inspired by the work done at Barrow. In exchange for a small donation, you receive periodic bundles of stories. They just published their first bundle with stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Karina Cooper, Edward Ashton, and Sierra Dean. I love it when things I love, SciFi, can support not-for-profit organizations. Thanks!

Recommended Utopian Scifi Novels

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All The Birds in the Sky Tumblr

Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
"I was listening to ep 243 and your discussion about Sword of Shanarra aping LotR. I'm surprised you didn't bring up the following Terry Pratchett quote regarding Tolkien and fantasy:

“J.R.R. Tolkien has become a sort of mountain, appearing in all subsequent fantasy in the way that Mt. Fuji appears so often in Japanese prints. Sometimes it’s big and up close. Sometimes it’s a shape on the horizon. Sometimes it’s not there at all, which means that the artist either has made a deliberate decision against the mountain, which is interesting in itself, or is in fact standing on Mt. Fuji.”
– Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction (p. 112)

It has really helped give me perspective when I think a book is too much like LotR. We frequently forget how huge LotR is in shaping all subsequent fantasy.

Giveaway: Send us ideas for our 5-minute monthly silliness show through Patreon, or if you can't use patreon
 Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to   
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at





S&L Podcast - #244 - It's OK to Like Junk Fiction Sometimes

Sometimes some people just want a story you can take your brain off and enjoy. If that's not you, keep your rain off my cotton candy. Also an awesome new effort to Kickstart an Ursula K. Leguin documentary and more great books becoming TV shows!

Download directly here!


Paul: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab, author of "A Darker Shade of Magic" and the upcoming "Gathering of Shadows", among others, has announced that the TV rights for her "A Darker Shade of Magic" series have been acquired and she will be writing the pilot for it.

Stephen: Are you having a hard time keeping up with Hugo nominations as regards to Novelettes, short stories and the like, like me ? The good folks at Rocket stack rank have listed those they feel are the most worthy.

Tamahome: The Women Who Helped Revive Doctor Who Are Making a New Fantasy Show based on Deborah Harkness's books.

Aaron: There is a documentary of Ursula K. Le Guin's life on Kickstarter. 25 days left and already well above their target funds.

Sandra: Syfy announces that The Magicians will be renewed for a second season.

Trike: Bryan Fuller named showrunner of the new Star Trek TV series.

Rob: The script for the new Harry Potter plays will be released in book form.


Audible virgin looking for help


Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

SoS: Why I like reading Junk Fiction (like SoS)

Special BONUS! Interview with James SA Cory from the "It's Spoilerin Time" show at


We'll be interviewing the first two authors in the Sword and Laser Inkshares collection coming out soon

Questions for J-F Dubeau author of The Life Engineered

Questions for Jim McDoniel author of An Unattractive Vampire

Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at

S&L Podcast - #243 - Hugo Nominations Are Open!

Yes you can nominate your favorite novels, short stories, TV scripts and— oh look, fancasts! We also discuss the line between inspiration and appropriation regarding Sword of Shannara.

Download directly here!
Tom: Roots Dry New England Cider    
Veronica: Bulleit Bourbon    
Sandra: Nominate your favorite books (and podcasts) for a Hugo
Locus recommended reading list for 2015 books    
Joanna: On a different note, they've cast Shadow from American Gods and, at least to me, he's well within spec for the mixed-race character. Yay for not completely screwing it up!? 
Kristina: Altered Carbon to become a show on Netflix!     
Andrew: For all those who enjoyed our read through "City of Stairs", Robert Jackson Bennett's sequel, though not available on Amazon until the 26th of this month, is available at most bookstores and through pre-order. Check out "City of Blades" and purchase using the special S&L link I've included below, so that our fabulous hosts get some money for the referral URL."   
It's 2 Feb (again)    
Favorite S&L of 2015
Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
 Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at

S&L Podcast - #242 - The Animal in Our Collection

We congratulate the winners of our Inkshares contest and name the book that will be joining our Sword and Laser collection. Plus, why you shouldn’t be angry at George R. R. Martin and how Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance is like a Tone Poem.    

Download directly here!

Congrats to our Sword and Laser Collection addition!    
The Animal in Man by Joseph Asphahani!   
An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?    
And big congrats to the other Inkshares contest winners who will be published by Inkshares!    
The Last Machine in the Solar System by Matt Sobin    
The Bones of the Past by Craig Munro    
Sky: George RR Martin finally admitted what everyone knew - that The Winds of Winter won't be out before the premiere of season six of Game of Thrones on HBO  

Tamahome: Graph of GRRM's publishing intervals show he's writing as fast as JK Rowling did and faster than Tolkien or CS Lewis.
Trike: Harlan Ellison. Released. A. New. Book. Came out December 31st from Subterranean Press. It's called Can & Can'tankerous. Which is awesome.  
Nokomis.FL: Friend of show, N.K. Jemisin Launches SFF Column at The New York Times Book Review.
Kate:  TechCrunch reports that Pottermore has abandoned exclusivity for the Harry Potter series. You can now purchase the ebooks directly through Amazon and B&N.
Sandra  :Phillip K. Dick Award Nominees
Stephen: A new Joe Abercrombie short story edited by the new guy at
Nokomis.FL: Amazon Echo can now read your Kindle books aloud on request.
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Josh: You guys may have dug this up already, but this short story is what Valente expanded/altered to create Radiance.  It's free on Clarkesworld, and even has audio of her reading it!

On one hand I really want to read it, on the other it might be spoilery, so I'll probably save it til I've finished the book.

Is this a good book or is it merely an impressive example of the writer's art?
It seems like the basic argument of a lot of the book is that there's no such thing as nonfiction? ...But then I wonder if there's a second, subtler argument going on, that not only is nonfiction a lie, but fiction is the only way to truth.     
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at

S&L Podcast - #241 - A.I. Animal Flesh Carvers

We talk to three of the leaders in the Inkshares Sword and Laser collection contest. From animal people to lonely AI to epic flesh carvers have they got some stories for you!

Download directly here!

Joseph Asphahani, The Animal in Man    
An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?
Matt Sobin, The Last Machine in the Solar System    
The story of The Last Machine in the Solar System is about a robotic artificial intelligence that has outlived human civilization by multiple billions of years. The machine has had an incomprehensible length of time to consider the demise of man and his own existence.
Craig Munro, The Bones of the Past
Life twisting magic, demonic possession and immortals who have outlived many of the gods themselves come together in this epic fantasy inspired by the likes of Glen Cook and Steven Erikson.
Go order a book at the Inksahres contest!
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at   


S&L Podcast - #240 - Wish We Were There

Over the break, we took a little time out of vacation to talk about our holiday reads, from ancient history to Chewbacca. Sigh. No Star Wars spoilers we promise.  We’re not there anymore. But we can pretend we are in this episode. 

Download directly here!

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster


S&L Podcast - #239 - King Arthur is a Mary Sue

We wrap up our thoughts about Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey. And we discuss why calling a character a “Mary Sue” has become meaningless and impedes constructive conversation.  

Download direct here and rate us in iTunes!

Tom: Guinness    
Veronica: Bulleit Rye
The Very Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of 2015
Trike: Margaret Atwood is writing a graphic novel trilogy, with a main character who is part cat and part bird, named Angel Catbird.
David: Apparently Neil Gaiman is working on a film adaptation of Gormenghast. I'd never heard of this series, but apparently it's one of those classics that impact lots of authors.    
Keith: Lev Grossman wrote a guide to The Magicians (TV) for fans of The Magicians (book)
Paul: The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), has released their own speculative fiction collection, featuring Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, and more.
Sandra: The Man in the High Castle Season 2 is officially happening.
Sword and Laser Inkshares Contest
Tails of the Apocalypse - Veronica is reading this review copy, loves it so far!
Next Month    

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente    
Wrap-up Arrows of the Queen    
Typos in my edition
An abundance of feminist ideas?
AotQ: A rare negative review?
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at

S&L Podcast - #238 - W.E.B. Dubois' 1908 GoT Reference

A newly-discovered short story from W.E.B. Dubois called “The Princess Steel” seems to anticipate elements of Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. Plus, we kick off the book with the talking horses!  

Download directly here, and rate us on iTunes!
Tom: Sam Adams Winter Lager
Veronica: Leftover Red Wine from Thanksgiving that I got at  Whole Foods for $10    
We May Have Just Found W.E.B. Du Bois' Earliest Science Fiction Story (1908 story called The Princess Steel) 
HobbitfromPA: Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Is Coming to TV    
READ: Kim Stanley Robinson's first standalone story in 25 years! / Boing Boing    
Tamahome: "The Mountain" from Games of Thrones sets new keg tossing record, as he would.    
Andrew: Pierce Brown has won the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction Book of 2015 - huzzah!    

Goodreads choice award winners    
Walter: Opening in select IMAX theaters and on Netflix on February 26, the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.  
Sword and Laser Inkshares Contest    
Stand-Alone Fantasy Novels    

Getting to “The End.” Standalone Fantasy Books That Came Out in 2015   
Steampunk - Recommendations?    
Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey    

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S&L Podcast - #237 - Charles E. Gannon and Big Idea Books

Author Chuck Gannon joins us on the show this week to talk about his most recent work in the Caine Riordan series (Raising Caine), as well as helping the government figure out the future as part of SIGMA. This is one busy guy, let me tell you.

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The Sword & Laser Collection Contest: The Sequel

The rumors are true! (Were there rumors? There may have been rumors). Along with Inkshares, we're running another Collection Contest to find the next great science fiction and fantasy novels. We are so thrilled with our current (in-production) collection, and we can't wait to see what else is out there!

Head over to Inkshares to get the whole scoop, and to learn how you can submit your idea!

S&L Podcast - #236 - Time Travel is Frustrating

We wrap up what people thought about Time and Again by Jack Finney. Some loved the imagery, some got bored, and some thought he was just too hard on New York City.

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Louie: As previously reported, you can watch the first episode of The Expanse TV show right now. Three weeks before its SyFy premiere on DEC 14.
Joanna: On a different note, it's Worldbuilder's time again, and all kinds of creative and geeky activity and prizes are caught up in that. It's a big fundraiser for Heifer International run by Patrick Rothfuss.
Stephen: Nebula have released their reader guide for 2015 in all categories. 
Sandra: Nominations For the 2016 Nebula Awards Are Now Open    
Which reminds us, the Goodreads Choice awards voting just closed!   
Sandra: Orbit Books announced yesterday that they were expanding their SF/F line by 50% next year to publish a whopping 90 books starting in 2016.
9 sci-fi authors went to Microsofts research labs and wrote a book - @usuallymatt    

An Unattractive Vampire joins the Inkshares Collection
How is this for whiskey nerdism (deep breath):

First, both Tom and Veronica are drinking whiskey. Scotch, bourbon, Japanese, Irish, Canadian -- they're all whiskey. It's like how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Each subdivision of whiskey has its own rules. Scotch, for instance, can only be made in Scotland. You can make something exactly like it somewhere else, but you can't call it scotch. And even within scotch, there are sub-sub-divisions (single malt vs blend vs single grain, etc etc)

As for Japanese whisky (let's not get into whiskey/whisky right now): Tom is drinking whisky from Japan's first whiskey distillery, pioneered by a guy named Masataka Taketsuru, who loved Scotch, studied distilling in Scotland, and in 1920 fell in love with and married a Scottish woman named Rita Cowan. He returned to Japan, set up whiskey distilling at what would become Suntory, and met with very little success because Japanese drinkers did not like the burly taste of single malt (they preferred the tamer flavor of blended scotch) that Taketsuru so adored.

Ten years later, after his contract with Suntory was up, Taketsuru quit and started his own distillery with the aim of making Scottish style whisky again. And that's what Veronica is drinking: Nikka.

There was recently a massively popular soap opera about Taketsuru and Cowan called MASSAN that aired on NHK and caused a massive spike in interest among Japanese women in becoming whisky drinkers. Which is why, Veronica, that Nikka 12 year old you're drinking won't be available in the Us (or Japan) anymore. They're running out, and dropping age statements so they can use younger whisky without the stigma of a young age printed on the label (by law, the age on the bottle reflects the youngest whisky used; so if you make a brand by mixing 50% forty year old single malt and 50% 4 year old single malt -- you just made a 4 year old whisky). - Keith Allison
Help needed from the group - Where to start the Shannara saga?   
Next month: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey       
Wrap up:    
Time and Again by Jack Finney
1880s via the 1970s (long but worth the read) 
What did you think?
Joanna: I found it kind of sleepy until I hit somewhere around 60%, and the Pickering plot picks up. For most of the book I was wondering if the author forgot about the [fact that Dazinger had asked Si to see his parents meeting, but then it got addressed in the very end.    
Colin: I listened to the Audible version of the book, and have to say that I enjoyed the experience. I instantly felt 'at home' with the conversational story telling style and was quite happy to be swept along wherever the story went - listening whenever I could until I had finished the whole thing.

That said, the story is not hard hitting, nor does it try to address big issues. The mechanics of the time travel, don't really bear close scrutiny. It just is what it is - a cleverly plotted mystery where the action happens to be taking place 90 years in the protagonist's past. I can see why some people could have been frustrated by the overly descriptive writing, but the richness of the text is really what sells the time travel aspect. The author must have researched it very closely - or he at least gives that impression."    
Matthew: I have to say other that other then the vivid descriptions of 1882 New York, I kind of hated this book. I grew to despise the main character, and in the last third of the book began to think of him as either, at best a well meaning idiot, or at worst self important anti-hero. After reading another thread, I see the Social commentary the author is trying to get at with the architectural changes of New York, and the anti-""ends justify the means"" style of government. However in the end I am left feeling dissatisfied.
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at


"An Unattractive Vampire" joins the S&L Inkshares Collection!

Back when we launched the S&L Inkshares Collection, we were thrilled with the quantity and quality of the entries we received. For that first contest, we decided to pick two books that epitomized the concepts of "sword" and "laser" to us, and The Life Engineered and Asteroid Made of Dragons were those selections.

All the while, another book was flying up the contest charts, and capturing our hearts (and blood). An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel:

After three centuries trapped underground, Yulric Bile—the Curséd One, the Devil’s Apprentice, the Thousand Year Old Vampyr—has risen only to find that no one in this time believes he is a vampire. Werewolf, they call him. Zombie. Mummy. Lich. Vampires, he discovers, have become very pretty, very weak, and most disturbing of all, very good. He resolves to correct this disgusting turn of events, or at the very least, murder the person responsible. Aided by a vampire wannabe, the eight-year-old reincarnation of his greatest foe, and a host of ancient horrors as far from sexy as it is possible to be, Yulric journeys from lost subterranean cities to pink suburban houses, battling undead TV stars and his fear of cars, for the right to determine, once and for all, what it truly means to be a vampire.

I'm very happy to announce that An Unattractive Vampire is officially joining the S&L Collection on Inkshares! Jim is also a S&L listener, so we're extra excited to welcome him to the family.