Starlings: razor-sharp stories and poems from Jo Walton

Stephen King once wrote that "a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger" -- that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous and exiting, and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton, contained between covers in the newly published Starlings, is exemplary of the principle. Walton, after all, is one of science fiction's major talents, and despite her protests that she "doesn't really know how to write stories," all the evidence is to the contrary.

An excerpt from Souls, Light and Wings, a debut novel by Simon A.G. Spencer

My first book, Souls, Light, and Wings has just released and I'd like to share an excerpt from its first chapter. The book is a bit hard to describe along clear genre lines, but if you pulled my arm or asked me nicely, I'd call it a post-apocalyptic fantasy crime thriller. Kind of a mouthful, right? I originally just wanted to write a more traditional urban fantasy story, but one chapter in and I found myself so bored with the world I'd built that I wanted to destroy it. So I did. The story follows a pair of police officers on a journey across an icy wasteland in search of a way to return a strange magical creature to his own world, while being pursued by a vicious criminal. Featured in this story are shapeshifters, train cults, an oblivious demon, kaiju, and plenty of other oddities.  Please enjoy:

Listen up: you really owe it to yourself to read 15 Vlad Taltos novels, seriously

I have been reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels since I was a pre-teen and singing their praises on Boing Boing since 2006, and with the occasion of the publication of Vallista, the fifteenth and nearly final volume in the series, I want to spend some time explaining to you why goddamnit you should really consider reading 15 books, get caught up, and finish this sucker with me, because if there was any justice in this world, the Vlad books would have a following to shame The Dark Tower at its peak.

George RR Martin, 1993 "The fantasy novel I've been working on off and on for a while" is an unlikely project for TV

Scott Edelman writes, "I interviewed George R. R. Martin at a Thai restaurant on Episode 42 of my Eating the Fantastic podcast (MP3), and after I returned home, remembered I'd also interviewed him back in 1993. After digging out the tape, I couldn't resist incorporating his amusing admission about 'a fantasy novel I've been working on off and on for a while' as part of the episode." Read the rest

Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland's DODO novel mashes up D&D, time-travel and military bureaucracy

While all of Neal Stephenson's -- always excellent -- novels share common themes and tropes, they're also told in many different modes, from the stately, measured pace of the Baroque Cycle books to the madcap energy of Snow Crash to the wildly experimental pacing of Seveneves. With The Rise and Fall of DODO, a novel co-written with his Mongoliad collaborator, the novelist Nicole Galland, we get all the modes of Stephenson, and all the tropes, and it is glorious.

Steven Boyett on Fata Morgana, his new WWII/alt-history mashup novel

Today on John Scalzi's Whatever blog, Steven R Boyett (author of the classic fantasy novel Ariel) writes about Fata Morgana, the new alternate history/WWII novel he's just published with Ken Mitchroney. Read the rest

My guest-appearance on Hello From the Magic Tavern

I'm a huge fan of the fantastically rude improv/current affairs/high fantasy podcast Hello From the Magic Tavern, I've enjoyed it ever since I binge-listened to the first season halfway through. Read the rest

The Humble Unicorn Bundle, get great, DRM-free fantasy novels, support environmental causes

Steven Boyett writes, "Humble Bundle has released a unicorn-themed Bundle, with proceeds to benefit the World Wide Fund for Nature and Fauna & Flora International. For as little as $1.00, you can get Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett (full disclosure: that's me); Unicorn Mountain, by Michael Bishop; Homeward Bound, by Bruce Coville; and Unicorn Triangle, by Patricia McKillip." Read the rest

The exploration and expansion of gender: the 2016 Tiptree Awards for fantasy and science fiction

The 2016 winners of the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award have been announced, top honors went to When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, with further honors going to some of my favorite books of 2016: Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway, Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning, and Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky. Read the rest

Frostgrave, the popular fantasy skirmish game, gets a devilishly-good supplement

Last year, I had the pleasure of exploring “the Frozen City” of Felstad, aka Frostgrave, the ridiculously fun, retro-reminiscent fantasy miniatures game from Osprey. Designer Joseph McCullogh and Osprey have followed up the highly-successful Frostgrave book with a series of excellent supplements. The latest of these is Forgotten Pacts.

Frostgrave is a very psycho-geographical game, where the ancient, ruined, and magic-saturated city of Felstad is really a central character in the game. One of the things each follow-up book does is shine a light into some new corner of that dark and ruined world. And with that light is also illuminated new stories of the city’s past, new wizard and warband types, new magic, treasures to unearth, and new monstrous adversaries.

Forgotten Pacts accomplishes two goals in advancing the game and the setting of Frostgrave. It introduces a new region, the northern reaches of Felstad, and the barbarian tribesmen who have come down from the hills to plunder and explore there. The book also introduces a new magical discipline for courageous wizards to attempt: demonic summoning using pacts. Demon summoning was de rigor in this region of the city during its heyday and the barbarians have re-rediscovered the lost art of it among the temple ruins and incorporated the practice into their way of life. Venturing into this region, players’ wizards get the opportunity to find a demon’s True Name (basically an unpronounceable name rendered as a sigil) among the ruins, and with that name, attempt to conjure and forge a pact with a demon. Read the rest

The BBC will air a docudrama on Terry Pratchett's life and his struggle with Alzheimer's

Paul Kaye plays Pratchett in Back in Black, based on Pratchett's unfinished autobiography; it will air on Saturday. Read the rest

Snow White's cottage for sale

Built in 1982, this 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath home based on Snow White's cottage is for sale in Olalla, Washington. It's 2,800 square-feet on 7.52 acres and listed at $925,000. From Realtor.com:

There's not a square corner anywhere. Each door was hand built with extensive iron work. Wood beams were hand carved, stained glass windows are everywhere, and the walls appear to more like a magical cave. Perfect for a B & B or a wedding business.

Read the rest

Cryptomancer: RPG based on real crypto fundamentals

In Cryptomancer, players inhabit a fantasy world populated with elves, dwarves and humans, but they win out by designing and undermining cryptographically secured networks of magical gems that allow different factions to coordinate their actions over distance. Read the rest

Epic fantasy in the scary woods, The Vorrh

The Vorrh is Brian Catling, an accomplished visual artist's, first foray into novel writing. It is a magnificent display of world building, and perhaps sheer madness.

The Vorrh is a vast, perhaps endless, forest. Inside the Vorrh live all sorts of magical creatures and mystery. No one has every transversed the Vorrh and lived to tell the tale, until now.

This novel is an adventure in and of itself. Catling adopts a prosaic style that initially I thought was going to be pretty difficult to read, but it isn't. The text doesn't fly by, but I was absorbed and quickly fell into a rhythm where it worked.

This isn't a novel to start lightly, there is a Finnegan's Wake-like element here.

The Vorrh by Brian Catling via Amazon Read the rest

Prosthetic elf-ears with built-in earbuds

If you're heading into the Council of Elrond disguised as an elf, but you're reliant on a kind of Elvish Cyrano to whisper advice in your (lily-white) ear so you don't blow your cover, look no further than the Twisted Melon Spirit E666 Elvish Ear earbuds, which cost about $10. Now I know what to get the Beschizzas for Xmas! (via Red Ferret) Read the rest

Nimona: a YA graphic novel that raises serious, unanswerable moral quandries with snappy dialog and slapstick

I first encountered Noelle Stevenson's work through her groundbreaking, brilliant comic Lumberjanes, but before the 'Janes, Stevenson was tearing up the webcomics world with Nimona, which was collected and published by Harper Teen in 2015.

Diverse fantasy writers of non-European-derived worlds: Tor.com opening for novella submissions

Submissions open on Oct 12 for at least three months; they're considering 20,000-40,000 novellas "that fit the epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, high fantasy, or quest fantasy genres, whether set on Earth or on an original fantasy world" but "will only be considering novellas that inhabit worlds that are not modeled on European cultures" and the editors "actively request submissions from writers from underrepresented populations." Read the rest

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