Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2018 Reading Year in Review

Been a few years since I did a reading year in review here at the Blog o’ Stuff, the most recent being 2015. For completeness sake, here are the previous years I’ve put up a reading year in review, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. Much of my writing has been divided between about twice-per-month book reviews over at SFFWorld and one or two posts per week at my beer blog, The Tap Takeover. So, without further adieu, of the 80 or so books I read in 2018, below are those I enjoyed the most.

OK, back to the books. I’ll start with some stats as I do every year: I read 80 books in 2018.  In 2018, I posted 28 reviews to SFFWorld and 3 to The Tap Takeover.

Here are some stats:
  • 34 2018/current year releases
  • 43 can be considered Fantasy
  • 24 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 25 can be considered Horror
  • 19 audiobooks
  • 14 total debut
  • 3 Non fiction

The first two (three if you consider slot #1 to be two books) on the list below are easily the top two reads of the year for me, the remainder can pretty easily swap places as they all were fantastic so I’m going alphabetical by author’s last name. Rather than a top 10 list of entries, like in year’s past, I went with 12. Because there are 12 months in the year.

The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. 

I’m lumping these two together because they form a single story and were published in back to back months. These are the two of the best Science Fiction novels I read this year, and some of the best Science Fiction I’ve ever read.



A wonderful, seamless blend of character study, hard science fiction, and alternate history. In 1952, the space race is in its infancy and the world is changed, one may say shattered, when a meteor crashes into the ocean off the East Coast of the United States. Told from the first person point of view of Elma, Mary Robinette Kowal gives a personal, bird’s eye view of the global catastrophe and humanity’s efforts to survive. Elma and Nathaniel are directly involved in the salvation efforts; Elma was a WASP (the Women Airforce Service Pilots) in World War II who also happens to be a physics and mathematics genius. Her husband is no slouch either, Nathaniel is chosen to become the lead engineer in the space program.

I was completely absorbed and enthralled with Elma York, a character who immediately leapt to the uppermost reaches of favorite first-person narrators. She’s a hero, a person we can all look up to for the “faults” in her character and how forward-thinking she is. I almost think of her as Leslie Knope (from the great TV show Parks and Recreation) with Nathaniel as her Ben for their hopeful attitude as individuals and their complementary, supportive, and empowering relationship as husband and wife. Hell, if this wonderful novel ever makes it the screen, there’s your stars.


In The Calculating Stars, Kowal takes an exciting time in human history, shakes it up on a global scale, makes it more exciting, and on top of that, takes us on an extremely, intimate personal story. This is the type of Science Fiction we all need right now, such a wonderfully forward-thinking and smart novel told through the voice of an immediately classic protagonist.

The characterization is remarkable throughout. Nathaniel, Elma’s husband, isn’t in the novel as much as he was in The Calculating Stars. This is logical and understandable, Elma spends much of her time in space while Nathaniel is back on Earth. However, their relationship, through their coded letters, is still a highlight and a backbone of who Elma is. As I said in my review of The Calculating Stars, their marriage is probably one of the strongest, most realistic, most loving, and supportive relationships I’ve ever read in any novel.



This book turned out to be the one I was most looking forward to reading and the one that absolutely delivered on the promise. I reviewed this over at my beer blog, here's an excerpt of the review:

As the title suggests, the book is quite evenly divided between “Barrel-Aged Stout,” which chronicles the rise of Goose Island and “Selling Out,” which chronicles Anheuser-Busch InBev’s purchase of the brewery. Soon after that purchase, AB InBev itself launched into a spending spree gobbling up regional craft/independent breweries that in hindsight, seems like a very calculated move, but at the time was a very jarring few years.
Candid, factual, gripping, emotional, educational, eye-opening, fascinating – all these things and more. Anybody who appreciates well-crafted beer will enjoy this book. Readers looking for a unique peek into how a multi-billion dollar conglomerate operates (regardless of your beer preferences) will be fascinated to see how an economic landscape can change in just a few short years.
Barrel Aged Stout and Selling Out is an un-put-downable book that tells a gripping story of perhaps the most important post-Prohibition handful years of Beer History in America. This is definitely a book that will remain within easy reach for reference and for re-reads.



From my SFFWorld reviews (linked above):

Our protagonist, accomplished thief Sancia Grado, is hired to steal a highly-sought after box. She also receives instructions not to open this box but of course curiosity gets the better of her. When she opens the box, she sees a key. It doesn’t seem like much until she grabs it and it speaks to her. Literally. This key, whose name is Clef, connects with Sancia very strongly in large part because of the plate in her head that makes her a scrived human. That “modification” is also part of why she’s such a good thief, she is able to gain a fundamental, almost elemental understanding of anything she touches. Sancia had no choice in this “modification” so naturally seeks revenge against the larger powers that be who allowed this to happen. Those powers are the four houses, or “campos” that run everything in the Venetian inspired city of Tevanne.
Foundryside is a deft combination and weaving of story that was incredibly difficult to set aside. With heist and crime fiction elements that are reminiscent of Scorsese’s The Departed, mythic, fantastic world building that reminded me of both Brandon Sanderson and Rachel Aaron*, and characters that both shine on their own and echo some iconic characters (I found myself comparing Gregor to Batman in some scenes), Bennett has once again unleashed an imaginative epic that is a reading delight.

What Does this Button Do? by Bruce Dickinson



For those not in the know, Bruce Dickinson is the lead singer of legendary British Heavy Metal band, Iron Maiden. Maiden happens to be one of my 3 or 4 favorite bands so this was a delightful book to “read.” I consumed this via audio book, with Bruce Dickinson providing the narration, that seemed the best way to read it and I think I was correct. In addition to having a powerful singing voice, Bruce is a charming fellow. Through this autobiography, a little light is shed on Bruce’s early years, with much of the book focusing on his time in the limelight with Iron Maiden. A must read/listen for anybody who enjoys music biographies and especially Heavy Metal music.



Sure, I’m grouping these two together, but I read them both this year and separated only by a few short months. From my two reviews (linked above): Heavy Metal/Hard Rock and Fantasy have long been intertwined, just look at some album covers from the 1970s and 1980s from bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar, or Ronnie James Dio (whose first band was called Elf) to more recent bands like Blind Guardian or Rhapsody. You’d think there’d be a novel like Kings of the Wyld years ago. You’d be wrong and sure a band of mercenaries and a world described in Rock/Heavy Metal metaphors is a neat hook, Eames has such great humor and storytelling chops that the novel rises above even that great idea.

Although Bloody Rose is set in the same world as Kings of the Wyld six years after the conclusion of the novel and features some of those characters (i.e. a major plotline in Kings of the Wyld was Gabe’s quest to save Rose), the novel can work on its own.




Eames’s tells his story in a very easy-going fashion which ultimately, exudes a great sense of fun. That said, Eames tackles some headier themes, of bad parents, PTSD, abuse, becoming a parent, and how responsibility can be smoothed over. Sure, he’s having a lot of fun with the story, but the story also has Some Things To Say.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant



As most folks know, Mira Grant is a pen name for Seanan McGuire. I’ve become a convert to all of her fiction over the past year and this is a very strong, creepy, science-fueled novel. Mermaids are real in this novel, and a deep sea expedition is trying to find them. This novel is equal parts horror and science fiction and quite simply a powerful, wonderful novel. I consumed this one via audio book and that added to the creepiness. As much as we all know mermaids are likely not real, McGuire packs enough real-life science into so much of the plot that the mermaids might just be believable. Great characters and a wonderfully brisk pace make this a fantastic read. I’m cheating a bit on this one because it first published in November 2017, but I read the audio early in the year and the paperback published in May 2018.

Scourged by Kevin Hearne


This book is the finale in Hearne’s long(ish) running Iron Druid Chronicles series. 10 books in total (9 novels and a collection of short stories as well as randomly released short stories) over the course of about 8 years, I’ve found these books immensely enjoyable. Hearne does a wonderful job of throwing as many world mythologies into the stew of this series with Atticus O’Sullivan at the heart of the story, especially as he’s become the lynch-pin of the Norse Ragnarok. This one may have made me shed a tear or two, but not in ways I expected it to do so.

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix



This was an absolute blast for me, especially given that my favorite genre of music is Heavy Metal. Over the course of a very short time, Grady Hendrix is becoming one of the preeminent horror writers.

In a brief amount of time, Grady’s become a leading voice in the horror genre and although I’ve only read one other novel (the outstanding My Best Friend's Exorcism) by him, it is clear to me he’s a writer with great skill and honesty in his fiction. In We Sold Our Souls Grady managed to combine two of my favorite things in the world with this novel: heavy metal music and horror fiction. To that combo, he added a phenomenal protagonist in Kris Pulaski, the lone woman in the band Dürt Würk and our primary P.O.V. character. Kris is at the bottom of her rope despite having a once moderately successful gig as the guitarist for 1980s Metal band Dürt Würk. That all changed when her one-time best friend and lead singer of Dürt Würk Terry Hunt broke away from the band on “Contract Night.” This was a night few can remember, but changed the fate of the band forever. Grady does a masterful job immersing the reader in the heavy metal world and playing with some dark elements like Black Iron Mountain, the driving force behind Terry’s new band Koffin.

Grady takes readers on a cross-country journey that never falters, never takes a guitar solo of a break and is a relentless novel. Highly, highly recommended. This novel as dark, cynical, fun, and a wonderfully paced vision quest.

October Daye by Seanan McGuire




For the series binge that brought me the most reading enjoyment, I have to go with this series. I traveled quite a bit in 2018 and what helped through many of those plane rides were books 2 through 7 of McGuire’s best known series. These are mysteries wrapped up in an urban fantasy setting that are wonderful page turners and a long-game of a character study on the eponymous Toby Daye. McGuire has a deft hand with character and an equally smart vision of world-building for a world that seems like our own, but is actually connected to the world of Fae.


Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon.
I’ll subtitle this as my favorite re-read of 2018



McCammon was up there with King, Straub, and Koontz in 1980s horror and this is his biggest, most audacious novel. Often compared to King’s The Stand, I would argue Swan Song is a stronger novel. I’d been wanting to re-read this novel for years and finally sucked it up and read it via audio. I do love using just one credit for these big audio books, especially when as masterfully performed as this one was by Tom Stechschulte. Nuclear War/World War III happens and the remaining bits of humanity are scattered across the world. Some make it out of the war OK, but not many, and all are changed in some way. Either by their experiences, but trinkets they pick up, or scarred “Job’s masks” they grow. This is a powerful, dark, yet hopeful look at the end and how humanity might claw its way back to life.

Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael McDowell



I blame Grady Hendrix for this one, who featured the old paperbacks in his Paperbacks From Hell overview of the Horror Genre of the 1970s-1990s. Counter to that, I did this one via audio since audible had the 6 short books of the series as one volume masterfully narrated by Matt Godfrey. This masterful, gothic, familial saga traces the legacy of the Caskey family from the appearance of a strange women named Elinor Dammert during the disastrous flood that struck Perdido, Alabama in 1919. The Caskeys have long established their place in Perdido’s lumber tycoons. What unfolds is pure beauty and joyful reading experience. I’d love to see Guillermo del Toro focus his film-making lens on this gothic saga.


Speed of the Dark by Elizabeth Moon


Moon is a master storyteller, having written what is arguably a very definitive Military Fantasy series in The Deed of Paksenarrion as well as a finely crafted Military SF series, Vatta’s War. While those novels are very good, Moon turns to something a bit more grounded – Autism and a potential corrective/cure for it. Set “twenty minutes from now,” Moon tells the story of Lou Arrendale and wonderfully captures his voice and the struggles he deals with on a daily basis. A powerful novel that deservedly received the Nebula Award for Best Novel

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Hallowe'en 2018 Recap

Looky here, another post on the old 'o Stuff.

October is obviously a great month for Horror and dark stories and this past October, I had a pretty good fill of darkness. The month started with Seanan McGuire’s enormously fun, Boneyard, a weird western/horror novel set in the world of the Dead Lands RPG. I reviewed that for SFFWorld so you can head over there for my full thoughts, but bottom line: engaging, harrowing, and entertaining.

But backtracking a little, September ended and October began with a vampire novel, but not an ordinary vampire novel. The late Octavia Butler’s contribution to the vampire mythos, Fledgling is more science fiction than horror, although there are of course some dark elements to the novel. Butler is never one to shy away from uncomfortable elements in her fiction and making her vampire appear to be a young girl leaves a great deal of room for many uncomfortable scenes. I love her Lilith’s Brood / Xenogenesis series and this one is pretty good, too. I really like her concept for the Vampire and how even the “vampires” themselves are unsure of their own history at times. This was an audio read.



Right about the time I was juggling those two books, I watched You Might be the Killer the movie based on the entertaining twitter conversation between Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig. The film was at Fantastic Fest in late September and premiered on the SyFy network on the first Saturday in October, which also happened to be the Saturday of New York Comic Con. The movie was a lot of fun and works as sort of a mash up of Scream and Cabin in the Woods. The film stars Fran Kranz (who also starred in Cabin in the Woods, which happened to air just before You Might be the Killer premiered on SyFy) as an out of breath, on the run camp counselor named Sam who calls his friend Chuck, a video store clerk portrayed by Alyson Hannigan. The movie doesn’t waste time with revealing the obvious – that Sam is the killer. From there, it is a fun 90 minutes or so. I’ll be making this a re-watch come every October. The film worked for me on a few different levels, I like horror, I like humor, and I like both Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes. Beyond that, the film is a fun send up of the Slasher subgenre of horror movies.

I finally started and finished a Clive Barker novel - Damnation Game, his first novel, in fact. The novel was a bit slow, but a very nuanced novel I thought. More subtle, at least in some parts and through some plot movements, than I would have expected from the man who gave us Hellraiser. Simon Vance is a renowned narrator and he did bring a nice level of class to the performance. The story tells the tale of an ancient man who is in debt to an even older creature. This is very much in the vein of the classic Faust tale and mixes in some pretty gruesome imagery.

Another solid page turner for the moth was Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground. This is a horrific post-apocalyptic tale of women randomly giving birth to spider like creatures. Some great character stuff throughout against gorrific imagery. I would have liked a clearer explanation of the how and why of everything, if I’m being honest. Nonetheless, a good page turner.



The Witch is a movie that’s been on my radar since it hit theaters in 2015 and I finally watched it in the middle October. In the early 1600s of New England, a family of 6 (Mother, Father, baby, young twins, and eldest daughter) is banished from their church. They are left to make a home at the edge of a forest that holds dark secrets. Immediately, the baby of the family disappears and because eldest daughter Tomasin is last seen with the baby, she is blamed for the disappearance and even called a witch by the twins of the family. The film is extremely tense, has a wonderful atmosphere which lends such an immersive feel to the film, and leaves much of the terror to build on the raw emotions of the family. It was a fairly slow-moving film, but that pace was a deliberate effect that worked to reward patience. A modern classic, one might say about The Witch.



As the month changes to November, I’m in the middle of the audiobook of Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn narrated by R.C. Bray. I am thoroughly enjoying this novel which tells the story of a down on his luck true crime writer who is given a golden ticket to interview an infamous mass murderer. Think Charles Manson, except this killer never talks to the press. The catch – protagonist Lucas Graham has to live in the house where the murderer committed his heinous acts. As of this post, I'm about a third to halfway through the book. The novel is filled with negative emotions and anger, but that combination makes for an extremely compelling read especially from the great performance by R.C. Bray.

Cover design by Doogie Horner

The absolute standout Hallowe’en thing for me, and book/novel that is on my top 10 of the year and one of my instant classic favorite horror novels of all time was We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. In a brief amount of time, Grady’s become a leading voice in the horror genre and although I’ve only read one other novel (the outstanding My Best Friend's Exorcism) by him, it is clear to me he’s a writer with great skill and honesty in his fiction. I also adore his Paperbacks from Hell book, an appreciation of Horror fiction of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s as well as his Great Stephen King Re-Read at Tor.com.

In We Sold Our Souls Grady managed to combine two of my favorite things in the world with this novel: heavy metal music and horror fiction. To that combo, he added a phenomenal protagonist in Kris Pulaski, the lone woman in the band Dürt Würk and our primary P.O.V. character. Kris is at the bottom of her rope despite having a once moderately successful gig as the guitarist for 1980s Metal band Dürt Würk. That all changed when her one-time best friend and lead singer of Dürt Würk Terry Hunt broke away from the band on “Contract Night.” This was a night few can remember, but changed the fate of the band forever. Grady does a masterful job immersing the reader in the heavy metal world and playing with some dark elements like Black Iron Mountain, the driving force behind Terry’s new band Koffin.

Grady takes readers on a cross-country journey that never falters, never takes a guitar solo of a break and is a relentless novel. Highly, highly recommended.

So there you have it, a recap of Hallowe'en fictional adventures for 2018.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Book Review - KINGS of the WYLD by Nicholas Eames

Your favorite band has broken up, maybe they changed lead singers. For me that was Iron Maiden when Bruce Dickinson stepped away is front man for Maiden 1993. When news broke in 1999 that he would be returning, I was excited, and a little nervous. What emerged was a great album (Brave New World) and a tour to support it that would be great. Enough about me and my favorite band, on to Nicholas Eames’s rocking and thrashing debut novel, Kings of the Wyld. That is essentially what Nicholas Eames seems to be attempting to capture with his debut novel Kings of the Wyld, the first installment of the series he’s calling The Band.

Cover Art by Richard Anderson


Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best -- the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk - or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help. 
His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It's time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

Clay Cooper is living a harmonious life with his wife and daughter, his violent past as a member of Saga behind him. Of course, when his former bandmate Gabriel the Golden comes asking – begging – for help in finding his own lost daughter, Clay realizes he can’t say no.

What follows is a rip-roaring tour of the land as Clay and Gabriel get the band back together: wizard Moog afflicted with Rot; warrior-born Ganelorn who was turned to stone; and Matrick; the overweight and somewhat emasculated/henpecked king. Moog is the most willing and easiest former band member to get “back on stage and tour,” while Ganelorn and Matrick prove rather difficult for their own reasons. Once that business is over, you’d think it would be simple to find Gabriel’s daughter Rose.

Well, you’d be wrong.

On the way to freeing Ganelorn from his year’s-long stone prison, they piss off the man responsible. In re-recruiting Matrick, Saga pissed off his unreasonable wife to the point where the only way to get him out of his castle was to fake his death. Matty’s wife sends a bounty-hunter, Larkspur, to reclaim the “fallen” king, which makes the quest to save Gabe’s daughter even They also clash with Lastleaf, the last ‘druin’ who is looking to reclaim Castia for his near-extinct people. The druin are the elder race who are long-lived, pointy-eared and powerful. Think elves with attitude.

The leader of the Band is considered “the Frontman,” the big man wields an Axe and “bands” of mercenaries are hired for gigs either to vanquish a problem or perform/compete in arenas. The bard of the band has a tendency to die, much like the drummer of Spinal Tap and the way around that by novel's end is quite ingenious. A large region is called Coverdale. If “Golden Gabriel” doesn’t bring to mind a lead singer, then you haven’t seen Almost Famous. Moog’s deceased husband is named Fredrick, in homage to Freddy Mercury of Queen. Mattrick Skulldrummer’s weapons of choice are a pair of knives which he furiously wields in battle, not unlike a drummer furiously bashing drums with his drumstick. Hell, the tagline “The Boys are Back In Town” is the title of a rock classic from the 1970s by Thin Lizzy. I think I’ve only touched the surface of the many allusions and references throughout the novel.

Owlbear art by Scott McCauley

Briefly, then, we’ve got a break-neck adventure novel that reads like the most well-crafted RPG session turned into novel form with unassuming and assured skill. Kings of the Wyld is deeper than that, though. Clay is our point man for the novel and the range of emotions Eames shows through his mind is genuine and bordering on profound. Sure, this is a rollicking fantasy novel with awesome monsters, zombies…er rather an “unkillable” character, owlbears (!), fantasy races, and wizards, but Eames has Some Things to Say. Through Clay - whose “weapon of choice”, a shield, says a lot about his character - there’s an intriguing internal struggle about overcoming baser instincts. appreciating what is front of you, revisiting the past, and the bonds of friendship that can strengthen into bonds of family. One of Saga’s members, Moog the wizard is gay, and it just is. No big deal over it and all the bandmates accept it. What little they say about it, and many other characters, is more powerful than making an overtly big deal about it.

Heavy Metal/Hard Rock and Fantasy have long been intertwined, just look at some album covers from the 1970s and 1980s from bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar, or Ronnie James Dio (whose first band was called Elf) to more recent bands like Blind Guardian or Rhapsody. You’d think there’d be a novel like Kings of the Wyld years ago. You’d be wrong and sure a band of mercenaries and a world described in Rock/Heavy Metal metaphors is a neat hook, Eames has such great humor and storytelling chops that the novel rises above even that great idea.

This book slipped down Mount ToBeRead a bit last year, but I saw quite a few folks talking about it on twitter over the past few months which pushed me to pick it up and read it, I am extremely glad I did and can’t wait to get my hands on the second in the series The Bloody Rose later this summer.

Nicholas Eame’s Web site is well worth a visit especially the page featuring the fantastic artwork depicting characters and creatures of the world.


The book has struck a chord over the last year since it published, having already inspired its own TVTropes page.

Bottom line, you want to get a floor-seat to the Kings of the Wyld so you can experience Clay, Gabe, Ganelorn, Matty, and Moog (and new addition, Kit), perform in all their Rock Glory.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Announcing: The Tap Takeover

Because one blog isn't enough for me, I've started a new Beer Blog:


If you are so inclined, please go peruse. Please and thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Beer Review: Flying Dog Nice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

NameNice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

StyleMilk Stout

Brewing Company: Flying Dog

Location: Frederick, MD

ABV: 7.2%

IBU: 20


The beer’s page on Flying Dog’s Web site

This Holiday Milk Stout is a game changer. Leave this out with plate of cookies and Santa will hook your ass up.



And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

Milk Stouts are one of my favorite types of stouts, the sweetness balances out some of the bitterness inherit in a traditional stout.  The sweetness comes from the lactose sugars, which lends the name Milk Stout, probably because it sounds better than “Lactose Stout.”

750th unique check-in to Untappd,
thus the 7 and 50 on the D10s
On to this beer…I’ve been hit or miss with much of Flying Dog’s output, but more hits lately than misses I have to say.  Like many good milk stouts, this one starts very sweet and smooth with a balanced feel as it settles really nicely into the belly.

Like most stouts, it gets better as it sits and settles closer to room temperature, but I wouldn’t want to drink this too warm.  Some stouts you want to just linger over and sip over the course of a half hour, but this one is smooth enough that having a couple would be nice.

Despite the relatively high ABV for a Milk Stout at 7.2%, I didn’t feel it too much.  I was able to have 2 of these plus another lower ABV beer and not really feel it. However, I imagine after 3 or 4 of these the ABV might catch up with you.

I also appreciated the lack of bitter aftertaste that accompanies some stouts.

All of that said, I’m not sure what makes this one a Holiday Milk Stout. There aren’t any spices like nutmeg or cinnamon most often associated with Holiday/Christmas beers, so I could see this becoming a year round Milk Stout along the lines of a Lancaster Milk Stout.

Overall, a very drinkable Milk Stout and one I can conceivably see myself enjoying multiple bottles over the course of a holiday celebration. Well, I did enjoy two (as well as one other beer) during a Dungeons and Dragons gaming session.




Monday, December 12, 2016

An Update and Maybe a New Direction

Sure has been a while since I posted here at the old O' stuff.  I'm still posting reviews over at SFFWorld as most folks probably know. I suspect more people know me through twitter now than through this blog. 

For quite a while now, I've debated if I want to keep this blog active, officially close it, or try something new.  One of those "new" things I've been pondering is reviewing beer. I've always enjoyed beer, but over the past couple of years I've been really enjoying craft beer. In fact, for my birthday last month, my wife took me on a mini tour of some NJ Micro/Nanobreweries including Twin Elephant Brewing, Conclave Brewing, Kane Brewing, Beach Haus Brewery, and Carton Brewing

So tomorrow (or later today depending on when you read this) I'll be reviewing beers here at the O' Stuff. Depending on how it feels and what people have to say, I may continue it here or start a whole new blog dedicated just to my beer reviews. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

So Long and a Big Thank You to SF Signal

Since it is public now, I can post my thoughts about John DeNardo and JP Franz closing the doors of the Hugo Award Winning SF Signal.



I’ve been engaged in the online genre community since I joined the SFFWorld forums in 2000, even more so when I began writing for SFFWorld in 2003. Around that time, SF Signal launched and grew into one of the three or four mainstays of the SFF intarwebs, attracting great contributors, fostering relationships with writers and fans, and helping to promote a true sense community within the genre and winning 3 Hugo Awards, 2 for best Fanzine (2012 & 2013) and one for best Fancast in 2014.


Writing for SF Signal helped me to engage in the community, I came to know more people and become friends with many of them, including peers from other genre websites, SF publishing professionals, as well as writers. To name a few I’ve hung out with in “real life,” John Anealio, Fred Kiesche, Shecky, and Ed Lazellari. I’ve made some really good online friendships as a result of SF Signal as well, not the least of which include Paul WeimerJeff PattersonSarah ChornKristin Centorcelli (aka My Bookish Ways)Patrick HesterDavid AnnadaleAndrea Johnson,  Michael R. UnderwoodMike MartinezShana DuBoisDjango WexlerAndrew LiptakJohn H. Stevens among others.

Thanks must to also go Patrick Hester for throwing out the (albeit mass) email invite to be on the SF Signal podcast and allowing me on the podcast not once (Episode 228: Upcoming 2014 Books We Need To Read And Why) but twice (Episode 273: The Best SFF Book, TV Show, Movie, Comic Book, Game or other thing you consumed in 2014). This led to appearances on other Podcasts (Functional Nerds run by John Anealio and Patrick and Rocket Talk with Justin Landon). 

John was a great editor, as was Kristin Centorcelli during her tenure as Associate Editor. allowing me to bounce ideas off of them for my contributions and providing smart suggestions when I was having a tough time with a book review or article I wanted to post to SF Signal. If, rather hopefully when, I meet them in “real life” I can buy them each an adult beverage of their choice, because they more than deserve it.

I completely understand John and JP’s reasons for closing SF Signal. To run a webzine that has new posts nearly every hour nearly every day can be (and is in the case of places like Tor.com) a full time job. Yet these two generous, passionate fans did this not only of their own free time, but their own money for server/hosting costs. Granted, they do run advertisements, but much of that income (HA! Income from websites) went back into making it possible for SF Signal to be the active, robust web site – COMMUNITY – into which it so wonderfully grew over the years.

Bottom line, everybody involved in SF Signal had enthusiasm for SFF, the community, and sharing this enthusiasm with each other. John and JP helped to make the genre and online community a great place, were big contributors to the friendly atmosphere of not only the online genre community, but the current genre community as a whole. As such, the genre community as a whole is a little lesser without SF Signal as an active part of it.

Where does this leave me? Well, like I said, I completely understand their reasons. I’ll still be contributing quite a bit over at SFFWorld and whenever Tor.com will have me, I’ll be there, too. My blog is going through some changes. As regular readers may have noticed, I didn’t post a Books in the Mail this past Sunday, I’ll no longer be posting those. Other than that, the future is still open and I may touch upon that in a later post.

But again, a big thank you to John, JP, Patrick and all the other great folks behind the scenes at SF Signal. It was a great run for them and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be part of it for the past few years.



For a really great summation of the situation from an outsider of SF Signal, but a great fan (and Hugo winner in his own right), Aidan Moher did a nice little twitter “rant” which he Storified: