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.

S&L Podcast - #208 - Who Will Win This Year's Nebula?

So much good news! Some of our favorite stories are becoming movies and TV shows and we even have good news of a popular indie author getting picked up by Tor. And we even make a stab at predicting the Nebula winner. Yet controversy rages in the Untheileneise court. Especially about how to pronounced Untheileneise.

Download direct link here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?    
Tom: Nothing. I'm tired.    
Veronica: Nothing, I have to go to a dance class after this!    
    
QUICK BURNS
    
"Mark Nebula nominees are up at including S&L March pick The Goblin Emperor and the current pick Annihilation Will the Supreme S&L go out on a limb and predict a winner? "    
    
Rob: Amazon picked up a full season of Man in the High Castle     
    
David: The City & the City may be coming to TV!    
    
Allister: This sounds great. Kazuo Ishiguro is writing a novel with elves and ogres. The Buried Giant is set after the departure of the Romans from Britain and draws on Arthurian themes whilst being influenced by samurai movies/films and westerns.    
    
Stephen: Becky Chamber's well reviewed self published The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been picked up by TOR for wider distribution.     
    
Louie: Blade Runner sequel gets its director and star. Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) is in negotiations to direct Harrison Ford.     
Warren: Harrison Ford to reprise role as Deckard in 'Blade Runner' sequel    
    
Dara: Paramount is trying to acquire the rights to The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.    
    
David: Bryan Singer looking to adapt The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Apparently they're going to rename it Uprising. Maybe they're just using it to mine it for elements instead of really adapting it? Is the original (famous!) title that movie-unfriendly? "    
    
BARE YOUR SWORD
    
I also wanted to comment on the topic of alternative sexuality in SciFi.  It's funny because it seems like the last few books I have read in the genre are in fact exploring the idea that in the future sexuality isn't your standard hetero relationship.   The "Commonwealth Saga" by  Peter F. Hamilton had many different types of partnering, as a standard course throughout. Which also continued in his "The Dreaming Void" series.  Also "Hollow World" by Michael J. Sullivan had a very experimental play on sexuality (can't go into it since... Spoilers) and was really the whole point of the book.  I know these are just a few books, but it just feels like many of the newer books coming out have mixed things up.  Or at least not taken a hetero relationship as a standard assumption. -    Travis E
    
BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION    
    
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison    
    
Sarah Monette - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia    
The Goblin Emperor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia    
SarahMonette.com: Who am I?    
Katherine Addison || FAQ    
SFF In Conversation: Katherine Addison on The Goblin Emperor and Grimdark | The Book Smugglers    
The Book Plank: Author interview with Sarah Monette // Katherine Addison    
        
ADDENDUMS    
    
 Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser.   
    
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 swordandlaser.com/picks    
    

 

S&L Podcast - #207 - Crowdfunding an Abomination with Gary Whitta!

Gary Whitta is an award-winning screenwriter who wrote The Book of Eli and worked on the first Star Wars standalone film. So when he had an idea for a dark historical fantasy story he wrote a book. Why? We ask him that, about successfully crowdfunding his novel, and much more on this episode! 

Direct download here!

Oh, and yes. We ask him about Star Wars too.

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)

S&L Podcast - #206 - How Tyrion Could Die

We have a whole Wheel of Time pilot mystery to solve and then on top of it George RR Martin says any character in the Game of Thrones series could be killed even if they’re safe in the book. WHAT?! Hands off the Imp! Also we explore the mystery of why Tom didn’t like Annihilation more, even though he wanted to.

Download direct link here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?    
Tom: Longboard Lager    
Veronica: Old Potrero Whisky    
    
QUICK BURNS
    
Wheel of Time Pilot weirdness    
    
Game of Thrones TV show will start killing chracters independently from the book    
    
Sean: Here's something related to GoT/ASoIaF that's not depressing and/or annoying - Martin's original outline/proposal for the series.
    
AndrewP: Milla Jovovich will star in an adaption of GRR Martins 'The Lost lands' stories.

Terpkristin: Obviously, everybody is upset that the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (The Winds of Winter) is not coming in 2015. However, there is some good news as GRRM announced that his Dunk & Egg stories are finally coming to a stand-alone collection on October 6. This edition will be illustrated "on virtually every page" by Gary Gianni. GRRM's announcement can be read at his LJ site.     
    
David: They've announced that the first in Butcher's new Cinder Spires series, The Aeronaut's Windlass, is out in September    

Kevin: Tor.com announces its first line up of novellas to be published later this year from it's new imprint    
    
Ben: the Locus Recommended Reading List itself is a worthy quick burn. Each year it comes out in February highlighting what Locus Reviewers collectively regard as the best genre work to come out in a given year. It covers everything from YA to grimdark and from literary SFnal works to action heavy space opera. Its much longer than an award's short list and many people use the list to give them ideas what great works they might have missed from the previous year.    
    
BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION    
    
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer     
    
Sean: The problem of motivation    
    
Daniel: This book is not normal narrative    
    
John (Taloni): What genre is it actually (expect spoilers)    
    
From Annihilation to Acceptance: A Writer’s Surreal Journey    
    
Next Month: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison    
    
ADDENDUMS    
    
Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons at patreon.com/swordandlaser Thank you to all the folks who back our show,
    
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 swordandlaser.com/picks    
    

The Goblin Emperor
$8.99
By Katherine Addison

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.

S&L Podcast - #205 - Brian McClellan Grows His Own Spaghetti Sauce

When you rule the world of powder mages you can do what you want. Brian McClellan wields his powder for good. In addition to delivering us the complete Powder Mage trilogy with the third book The Autumn Republic, Brian is going to bring us a second trilogy in the same universe, all while growing his own spaghetti sauce and keeping bees. Impressive. Most impressive.

Download direct link!

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

S&L Podcast - #204 - Annihilation is Not the End

Veronica REALLY wanted to make the title of this episode "Tom Merritt is a sexist pig." But Tom doesn't need that kind of grief. And besides he has promised to read even more female SciFi/Fantasy authors going forward. But if you want to hear Veronica giggle at the notion-- as well as defend our book pick, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, and wax eloquent about the need for varied perspectives in literature-- then fire up this episode!

Download link here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?    
Tom: Boddington's Pub Ale    
Veronica: Some kind of white wine    
    
QUICK BURNS
    
Nominate Your Favorite Works And People For The 2015 Hugo Awards
    
Nokomis.FL noted "George RR Martin’s The Winds of Winter: no plans for publication in 2015 " Trike wasn't sure this was really news and Robert wrote: "given that 'Winds of Winter' won't be published in 2015, it's almost certain that the TV show will finish before the books are published. "
    
Michele and Dara: 
 "J. Michael Straczynski Will Adapt Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars for Spike TV""  
    
Dara: More books into tv series! Endemol studios has acquired the rights to Lauren Beuke's Broken Monsters    
    
"Ben:  After their popular special issues and Kickstarter campaign last year Women destroy Science Fiction (and fantasy and horror too) - Lightspeed are doing a similar thing with Queers Destroy.... Which can be backed on Kickstarter at the moment.
    
Robyn:  I'm late to the game (and apologies if this has been mentioned before), but I just realised that The Guardian is doing a monthly round-up of SFF - January's is here. Fun way to find out about new books.    
    
Also take a look at John DeNardo's SF Signal's 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy and Horror Books to Look Forward to in 2015 (Part 2)    
    
BARE YOUR SWORD
    
Louie: Who are your top 5 most read authors?    
    
Tom:        

1-Philip K. Dick        30
2-William Shakespeare        18
3-Stephen King        14
4-Evelyn Waugh        11
4-Douglas Adams        11
4-Neal Stephenson        11
7-Hunter S. Thompson        10
8-Frank Herbert        9
8-Douglas Coupland        9
    
Veronica:
1-Charlaine Harris        14
2- Laurie R. King        13
2-Robin Hobb        13
4-Tad Williams        12
4-Jim Butcher        12
6-Orson Scott Card        9
7-Jacqueline Carey        7
7-Gail Carriger        7
7-Kevin Hearne        7
7-J.K. Rowling        7"    
    
A Rant about a Particular Aspect of eBooks    

BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION    
    
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer     
Jeff VanderMeer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia    
Annihilation review – 'You'll find yourself afraid to turn the page' | Books | The Guardian    
Finally, a novel about weird science that's genuinely weird     

ADDENDUMS    
    
Support our show on Patreon    
    
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 swordandlaser.com/picks    
    


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 - #203 - Myke Cole's Secret Unicorn

We welcome back the amazing Myke Cole to talk about how he finds time to write great books, fight crime, and decorate his apartment with even more books. We also pressure him into a startling revelation about unicorns. And of course, talk to him about his new book, Gemini Cell: A Shadow Ops Novel which is out now!

Download direct here!

S&L Podcast - #202 - Ready Player Two

We wrap up The Sparrow. We loved it and it made us sad. We're also blown away at the quality of books being made into TV shows. Well, only a pilot and a trailer but so far so good. But should you risk reading a book and seeing a movie or TV show too? Maybe not!

Download direct here!
Watch the Google Hangout!
    
WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?    
Tom: Jameson's Select Reserve Black Barrel    
Veronica: Hendricks Gin  
    
QUICK BURNS 
    
Yento: New trailer for The Expanse. I'm trying so hard not to get too excited about it because syfy but this looks like it could be pretty good.   
    
Louie: First look at The Man in the High Castle adaptation. (Israel also alerted us)
    
Dara:  SyFy is really into adapting books. Now they're turning Robert Charles Wilson's Spin into a miniseries.     
    
Warren: Screenwriter Zak Penn, who's written the Ready Player One adaptation, has revealed that Ernest Cline is currently working on a second novel.     
    
David: "Gollancz have acquired the English translation and publication rights to three further Witcher books by Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski." via The Wertzone   
    
BARE YOUR SWORD
    
Steve: How to dislodge the movie from the book?  
    
Jonathon: Big, Long Series to Fill Gap Left By WoT 
    
BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION    
    
Next month's pick: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (We'll formally kick off next episode)    
    
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell    
    
TS: Disappointed With The Ending (full spoilers) 
        
ADDENDUMS

We have a new producer! Hi Jacob!

S&L Podcast - #201 - Don't Fear the Roomba?

Author and robotics engineer Daniel H. Wilson chats with us about his new story/app called Mayday: Deep Space about a person trapped on a ship full of monsters. Only you can help him survive! But of course we have to ask Daniel when the robots will rise up and kill us all. 

Download direct link here!

S&L Podcast - #200 - Best Books of 2014

Well we're here to kick off the new year AND celebrate our 200th episode so we gathered drinks and cheer and your favorite books of 2014 as well as our own and a few others. You'll never guess which one everybody picked! That's not true. You'll totally guess. You probably already guessed. But listen to the show anyway, OK. For us?
    
Download directly here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?    
Tom: Mimosa with Veuve Clicquot    
Veronica: Bulleit Rye    
    
QUICK BURNS
    
Mark Zuckerberg started a book club on Facebook because books are good 
    
Rob and Chakara: TWO new Mistborn novels by Brandon Sanderson will be released in late 2015 and early 2016!    
    
Nick: A Library In Your Pocket: How Having an E-reader Has Changed My Reading Habits
    
BARE YOUR SWORD
    
Your best of 2014    
The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of 2014   
Top 5 Sci-Fi Books of 2014 - OMNI Reboot    
The Martian by Andy Weir    
    
BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION    
    
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell    

 I want to have dinner with Anne and George!    
    
Final thoughts on The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern    
    
ADDENDUMS    
    
Support our show on Patreon
You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find upcoming and past new releases at swordandlaser.com/calendar    

S&L Podcast - #199 - Integrity for Sale

This week we almost wrap up The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, discuss the intricacies of eBook DRM and try to decide just how high a price our integrity would fetch. We also wonder the same about Neal Stephenson and Steven Hawking. Join us, won't you?

Download direct here!

S&L Podcast - #198 - The Most Hated Phrases in SciFi

This week we're busy. We congratulate the winners of several year-end awards. We kick off our December book pick, The Night Circus, a beautiful novel by Erin Morgenstern. And we dive into some of the most wretched and hated terms and phrases in the professions of authorship. Mary Sue is under siege!

Download directly here!

WHAT ARE WE DRINKING?

Tom: Red Trolley Ale
Veronica: Red Branch Hard Apple & Honey Cider
Casey: What are YOU drinking?

QUICK BURNS

Tamahome: The Goodreads choice awards are in
Sky: Audible's best of 2014 released. Sanderson managed to win out over UF/Paranormal :)
Dara: SyFy has cast the leads for The Magicians series. Jason Ralph will play Quentin Coldwater and Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon) will play Alice.
Nick pointed out the successful test flight of the unmanned Orion space capsule
Nick: Christopher Nolan rumored to be offered Ready Player One to direct
Fiona: The BBC adapted Good Omens as a 6 part audioplay. First part will air on Radio 4 on Monday 22nd December. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have cameo appearances!
Tamahome: What James Cameron says you'll do when you see the Avatar sequels. NSFW.http://boingboing.net/2014/11/26/james-cameron-on-avatar-sequel.html

PICKS

Andrew picked: The City and the City by China Mieville

BARE YOUR SWORD

Louie: Terms authors are tired of hearing: "Infodump," "Mary Sue," "Hard SF," "Dystopian."
What are some terms that you are tired of hearing/reading?

Marion: What Is The Strangest or Most Unique SF/Fantasy Novel That You Have Ever Read?

BOOK OF THE MONTH DISCUSSION

Kick off: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern on The Night Circus - YouTube

the night circus | erin morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

ADDENDUMS

Support our show on Patreon

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find upcoming and past new releases at swordandlaser.com/calendar