Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Novik & Martinez @SFFWorld, Moher & Mind Meld @SFSignal

Another busy couple of weeks at SFFWorld and SF Signal for me.

Last Monday, I interviewed my old blog/twitter pal Aidan Moher at SF Signal about the publication of his first book, a short-story collection Tide of Shadows:

RB: Your first sale was for the Sword and Laser anthology, receiving that acceptance must have been exciting. Was that your first submission?
AM: Lord no. I’d been submitting stories for about three years at that point and could paper my walls with the rejection letters. Having “A Night for Spirits and Snowflakes” accepted for the Sword & Laser Anthology was a huge surprise and a wonderful honour. I’m a big fan of what Veronica and Tom produce—even appearing once on the show to talk about the Hugo Awards—and to know that they hand picked my story from over 1,000 submissions was unbelievable at first, humbling second, and, finally, a big source of encouragement.

A couple of days after that, my review of Naomi Novik’s magnificient novel Uprooted posted to SFFWorld:
The main external conflict of the novel is the encroaching dread of the Wood; it has taken over villages, is filled with monstrous creatures, and has a dark magic of its own that can be poisonous to those who come into contact with it. In other words, Naomi Novik has given readers a tale of the Dark/Haunted Forest of European Lore (or The Lost Woods as TVTropes). The Dragon has taken as his primary mission the defense of the realms under his protection (primarily the village from which Agnieszka hails), against the encroaching Wood. The Wood has been growing in power and malevolence and has even taken the Queen into its heart, which is what sets Prince Marek on the path to the Dragon’s tower. Even though 20 years have passed since the Wood has taken her, he still thinks she can be saved.
Determination is what fuels many stories with a Fairy Tale feel to them. A tradition in such stories is that things have always happened the way they are supposed to happen: every 10 years the Dragon takes a young woman as a protégé(?), a concubine(?) and that young girl stays with him for a decade. Of course, that is until we encounter the story itself, in this case Agnieszka breaks that mold and (mild spoiler) she leaves the confines of the Dragon’s tower; an unprecedented thing in a story that fits the traditional fairy tale mold from which Uprooted initially seems to be carved. Despite this familiarity with the trappings of the story, Novik makes this story fully her own, a fresh story that can sit next to those tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, but with an entirely new story comprised of familiar parts. Not an easy thing for any writer to attempt, let alone pull off so successfully as Novik does here in Uprooted.

The day after that, my May SF Signal Mind Meld was posted, in which I asked Andrea Johnson, Erin Lindsey, Laura Anne Gilman, Mark Yon, Paul Weimer, and Violette Malan:

One of the more long-lived subsets of Fantasy is Portal Fantasy, which often involves a character from the “Real World” transported to a fantasy-esque land. The Wizard of Oz or The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are probably the most famous examples of portal fantasy..

Last, and certainly not least, my review this week for SFFWorld was a debut novel from a fellow native/resident of the Garden State, Michael J. Martinez’s The Daedalus Incident:

Some of the most fascinating elements of the novel involved the world-building:
how the parallel world Weatherby inhabits came to be, how magic works, and where history diverges from our own. Not only are sailing vessels traversing the Solar System (the Void), but like the Science Fiction of the late 19thand early 20th Century, the planets of the Solar System where Earth resides are or were inhabited. Weatherby and his men visit Mercury, which is populated by a strange alien species. Their journey also takes Weatherby, Finch, and crew to the Jovian System, Ganymede in particular. The cosmology here suggests humanity, though advanced, is a much younger species than those who live in the “solar neighborhood.” Prefacing most of the chapters in the 1779 narrative are snippets from Weatherby’s journey. This is a clever trick and as the novel progresses at a great pace, Martinez uses the journal in a very clever fashion.
In many ways, this book reminded me a great deal of an overlooked series from about a decade ago – J. Gregory / Greg Keyes’ criminally under-read "Age of Unreason" four-book series, which begins withNewton’s Cannon. There’s the same mix of important historical figures as characters in the story, a supernatural injection into a relatively familiar time period, and a solid story at the core.

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