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RIP, Lucius Shepard, gone too soon

Lucius Shepard, one of science fiction's great writers, has died. He was 66 70. I had met Lucius on several occasions and found him to be just as you'd hope from his novels: smart and witty (but lots of writers are smart and witty), and kind, and weird in the most delightful ways. I watched a chess-boxing match with Lucius and I have never seen someone more delighted. Shepard was involved in many good causes, and we had brainstormed many ideas for helping friends of his who were eking out a living in Central America as skin-divers and facing grave physical peril. It had been a few years since I'd seen him in the flesh, and I knew his health was often poor, but this was sudden and terrible news out of the blue.

Tor.com's obit does a good job of getting at the facts of his career:

Shepard began publishing short stories in 1983 and his first novel, Green Eyes, appeared in 1984. In 1985 he won the John Campbell Award for Best New Writer; over the course of his career he won the Nebula for his novella “R&R,” the Hugo for his novella “Barnacle Bill the Spacer,” and the Shirley Jackson Award for his novella “Vacancy” in 2008.

But to stop there is to miss how Shepard's fans and friends reveled in his work -- its originality, its dazzling language, its hardbitten and hard-won verisimilitude. He was a writer who changed the readers who found him, and I miss him already.

Update: A fitting eulogy from Michael Swanwick.

Lucius Shepard, 1947-2014

Homeland audiobook behind the scenes: Wil Wheaton explains his cameo to the director

The Humble Ebook Bundle is going great guns, with a collection of recent and classic books from both indie and major publishers, all DRM-free, on a name-your-price basis. Included in the bundle is an exclusive audio adaptation of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, who also appears as a character in the novel.

When Wil got to the part where the protagonist, Marcus, meets "him" in the story, he kind of lost it, cracking up as he read Marcus's breathless (and thoroughly deserved!) praise of Wil.

Here's audio (MP3) of Wil explaining the context of the scene to Gabrielle de Cuir, the director who worked with Wil on his reading.

Listening to the raw daily studio sessions in February was a great treat, and I hope these outtakes give you a sense of some of that behind-the-scene action.

You've got 12 more days to score the Humble Ebook Bundle, which includes Steven Gould's Jumper, Holly Black's Tithe, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Wil Wheaton's The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and the audio adaptation of Homeland, read by Wil!

Exclusive excerpt: chapter 3 of Mur Lafferty's "Ghost Train to New Orleans" [Urban fantasy]


[Ed: Mur Lafferty's 2013 debut novel Shambling Guide to New York City was an outstanding work of urban fantasy and contributed to Mur's winning a much-deserved John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2013 Hugo Awards. Now, Mur's back with a sequel, Ghost Train to New Orleans, and she and her publishers, Orbit, were kind enough to give us an exclusive excerpt from the novel, along with Mur's introduction, below. -Cory]

Chapter 3 of Ghost Train to New Orleans has our hero, Zoë, and her writers aboard a ghost bullet train to write a travel book for monsters. Zoë and another human have just discovered the train is about to experience an old fashioned train robbery with cowboys and horses and everything. 

I love these cowboys. This is an example of the "iceberg" of fiction - you will see one scene with these cowboys and learn only a little about them. But I had to come up with why these cowboys wore business attire underneath their cowboy clothes, why they are so bad at their jobs, and how they died to become ghosts anyway. Their whole story doesn't appear in the book, but I know these people. I really want to tell their backstory in an upcoming short.

Ghosts are an interesting creature to use in urban fantasy. They always seem to have their own creation myth; if everyone who died turned into a ghost, there would be billions of ghosts wandering around the world, which would make them not so much scary, but an annoyance. If only some people turned into ghosts, who and why? And if vampire and zombie undead existed, why did the person's spirit leave the body instead of turning the proper undead? 

I got my inspiration from Gail Carriger's Soulless, where vampires sometimes fail in their attempts to turn humans. In Gail's world, the human dies. In mine, I decided, if a vampire os zombie fails, a ghost is created instead. Since vampires seem to have more fun than ghosts, and ghosts are failed vampires (or, in some cases, zombies) this makes the ghosts decidedly bitter as a whole. In the world of the Shambling Guides, ghosts are insubstantial all the time, and can do little with the physical world unless they possess a human, which is very difficult to do unless the human is weakened or willing. Ghosts love the ghost train, though, since that's where they can take physical form. The job market for work aboard the ghost train is highly competitive. 

As for New Orleans, I'd wanted to return there since I got my initial inspiration for the book in 2005 when I wrote an RPG supplement for a charity gaming book to benefit the Red Cross after Katrina. In my supplement, a zombie continued her job as a tour guide even after she had died because she loved her home so much. I took my first expansion of this idea to New York, but I'm excited to return this idea to New Orleans and her jazz and parties and beignets. 

Ghost Train to New Orleans

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Gweek podcast 138: From Russia with Doubt

In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were:

Ramez Naam, a computer scientist and the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of three books, including the sci-fi thriller Nexus, which has been optioned as a film by Paramount and director Darren Aronofsky. The follow up title, Crux, came out in August.

Dean Putney, Boing Boing’s software developer and Gweek regular, whose self published a book of his great-grandfather’s World War I photos.

Danimal Cannon, a touring chiptune and heavy metal musician who occasionally composes music for indie video games. His album Parallel Processing was recently launched as the soundtrack for the new game Wave Wave on iOS.

This episode of Gweek is brought to you by:

Lynda.com, with over 2,000 high-quality and engaging video courses taught by industry experts. Visit lynda.com/gweek to try lynda.com free for 7 days

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Show Notes:

Ramez's picks:

Geekomancy and Celebromancy by Michael Underwood: Fun, witty, insider-joke filled geek urban fantasy.

How to get the most out of Facebook & Twitter: It’s all about Lists. And an app: TweetDeck.

rubtr: A browser plugin that lets you rebut pages that are inaccurate, and see rebuttals that have been made.


Dean's picks

Wave Wave - upcoming iOS game by Thomas Janson built around a fantastic chiptune album by Danimal Cannon.

The ArtisanVideos subReddit


Mark's picks:

From Russia With Doubt: The Quest to Authenticate 181 Would-Be Masterpieces of the Russian Avant-Garde A couple of amateur art collector brothers buy $40,000 worth of paintings on eBay, and they are appraised at $50 million.

My Passport Ultra 2TB Portable External Hard Drive I have replaced my external desktop hard drives with these. They are small, quiet, and inexpensive.

And much more!

Wil Wheaton has a surreal moment reading the Homeland audiobook

As mentioned yesterday, the DRM-free, independent audiobook of my novel Homeland is available from the Humble Bundle for the next two weeks, along with a collection of brilliant science fiction and fantasy from authors ranging from Scott Westerfeld to Holly Black.

I commissioned the audiobook for the project, and paid Wil Wheaton to read it at the Skyboat Studio in Los Angeles, for mastering by John Taylor Williams in DC. If you've read the book, you'll know that Wil has a cameo in the story, early on, and when he read that passage, he couldn't help but crack up. Gabrielle de Cuir, the talented director, made sure we captured that audio, and here's your chance to hear it (MP3).

Wil's reading is amazing, and it was such a pleasure to listen to the roughs as they came in from the studio. There are a couple more of these funny moments I'll be publishing this week, so watch this space!

Humble Bundle, featuring the DRM-free audio edition of Homeland

Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist for best novel of 2013

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the announcement for The Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist for best novel of 2013. The six books on the list are Nexus by Ramez Naam; God's War by Kameron Hurley; The Machine by James Smythe; Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie; The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann and The Adjacent by Christopher Priest. Of the six, my favorite is Nexus, which I reviewed last year. Congrats to all the nominees! The Clarke winners will be announced on May 1. Cory 3

Exclusive: Chapter 1 of Hugh AD Spencer's "Extreme Dentistry"


I'm extremely pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Hugh AD Spencer's debut novel Extreme Dentistry. I've known Hugh for more than 20 years now, and he's always been one of the most consistently funny and snappy writers of my acquaintance. Hugh's novel comes from the indie press Brain Lag, and we're grateful to them for permission to publish chapter one, after the jump. Here's a little more about the book:

The solution to your shape-shifting vampire problem is obvious: Dentists with faith. Aurora Award nominated author Hugh A.D. Spencer weaves a bizarre tale of sarcasm, Mormonism, death and oral hygiene that spans from Singapore to Germany to Missouri and Toronto. Extreme Dentistry explores love and loss, terrible bosses, difficulties in getting good babysitters, and those seedy centers of monstrous human and inactivity both human and inhuman -- shopping malls.

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HOMELAND audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, DRM-free, in the new Humble Bundle!

For the past two months, I've been working on a secret project to produce an independent audiobook adaptation of my bestselling novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, one of my favorite audiobook voice-actors (and a hell of a great guy, besides!). The audiobook is out as of today, and I'm proud to say that for the next two weeks, it is exclusively available through the new Humble Ebook Bundle, which kicks off today, featuring an amazing collection of name-your-price DRM-free ebooks by authors like Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, as well as Wil Wheaton. As always, there are some surprise bonus titles that will be added in week two, and so long as you pay more than the average at the time of purchase, you'll get these automatically.

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Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, out in the USA today


Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, the 40th Discworld novel, comes out in the US today. I reviewed it back in November for the UK release; here's what I had to say then: it's a tremendous synthesis of everything that makes Pratchett one of the world's most delightful writers. It's a curious thing: a fantasy novel about modernity and reactionaries, a synthesis of technological optimism and a curious sort of romantic mysticism.

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Play the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure online


In honour of the 30th anniversary of the brilliant (and incredibly frustrating) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure game, BBC Radio 4 Extra have recreated the game in an online edition. I remember playing this for endless hours, with my Peril Sensitive Sunglasses perched on my forehead, repeatedly typing "look." The R4 version allows for saved games, so you can come back to it. You can also play the 20th anniversary edition.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game - 30th Anniversary Edition (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Carved crayons -- now with color!


Both Mark and I have sung the praises of Hoang Tran's hand-carved pop-culture crayons (I have one in my office!).

But Tran has really gone to a new level, adding detail and sparing color not seen in the earlier works. These new pieces are on display in a Tumblr called Wax Nostalgic, and they're magnificent.

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Bruce Sterling's closing remarks from SXSW Interactive: who isn't in the room?

As ever, Bruce Sterling's closing remarks to the SXSW Interactive festival were a barn-burner; in them, Sterling rattles off a list of people who should be in the room, either because they know something that is lost on mainstream geekdom, or because they serve as examples for what not to become -- from GCHQ spies to Italian net-politics ninjas, from the Dread Pirate Roberts to Barrett Brown. Sterling dips into the future ("the future is full of cities full of old people who are scared of the sky") and wonders where Silicon Valley will decamp to once California is destroyed by climate change.

It's 45 minutes of funny, uncomfortable, storming invective, and a bracing way to pass the Ides of March. Here's an unauthorized MP3 rip in case you want to listen on the go (warning, may not work very well!).

Bruce Sterling Closing Remarks - SXSW Interactive 2014

Tobias Buckell's "System Reset": tense, taut hacker tale


IO9 has published Tobias Buckell's tense, taut technothriller story "System Reset." It's a story about hacker/bounty hunters, taken from the pages of John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey's new anthology The End is Nigh, the first of three volumes that deal with pre-apocalypses, apocalypses, and post-apocalypses, in order.

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast 135: Terrible Father, Amazing Dragonrider

Boars, Gore, and Swords is hosted by stand-up comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott. In each episode they break down HBO's Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. They also talk about movies, TV, science fiction, fantasy, and lots of other things. NSFW.

Ivan and Red reach their fourth and final podcast of George R.R. Martin’s medium-to-normal length story in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” world, “The Princess and The Queen”, part of the Railroad curated Dangerous Women Anthology. They discuss Railroad’s irresponsible editor, the eight hour long movie that is True Detective, heads up hallucinations, flesh sloughing, your dragon vs. your child, the riderless horse, Ser Hobert Hightower as hardcore Wallace Shawn, and one last dragon battle.

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast 134: A Turtle Is Not a Horse

Boars, Gore, and Swords is hosted by stand-up comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott. In each episode they break down HBO's Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. They also talk about movies, TV, science fiction, fantasy, and lots of other things. NSFW.

Ivan and Red continue into their penultimate installment of George R.R. Martin’s medium-to-normal length story in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” world, “The Princess and The Queen”, part of the Railroad curated Dangerous Women Anthology. We discuss our hopes for the future of True Detective, the significance of working out sibling rivalry through dragon violence, the 9,000 MySpace Bannerman, land pirates, the importance of not being Hobert, and mid-air dragon leaps.

This episode is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code BOARS.

GET BGaS: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode