Friday, December 30, 2011

Four Publishers You Should be Reading in 2012

Yep, that's right.  I said "publishers", not "authors".  The reason for this wording is these are the publishers I think are publishing the most innovative, original, and/or best written stuff in the fantasy and science fiction fields, with a dash of horror thrown in for spice.

I'm limiting my list to four (plus a runner-up) because these are the publishers whose books I've most enjoyed this year.  If you've read my post from yesterday, you can probably guess which ones won't be on there.  I'm deliberately not including small presses that publish pricey limited editions, even if they also publish trade editions.  I'm limiting the list to imprints you can find in a local bookstore.  Also, there's at least one publisher not on the list because I simply didn't get around to reading any of their books this year, and that's Orbit. I've enjoyed things they've published in the past, and have several books in the TBR stack from them.  What I've read of Orbit's line I've generally enjoyed, and I expect that to be the case with what I have on hand.

One thing to note about all the publishers on the list.  Roughly a decade, to use round figures, is about as long as any of these publishers have been around, although one or two have existed slightly longer than that.  Some are much younger.  All of them are lean, efficient, and not afraid to take chances with what they publish.  And their books don't look like all their other books.

Here's the way I'm structuring this list.  I'll list the publishers in reverse order, starting with the runner-up (along with an explanation of why that publisher isn't number 5), with a few recommendations from their line along with a list of some of what I'll be reading from them in the coming months.  I'll confine myself to three, at most four, recommendations and TBRs, even though in most cases the actual number is greater.  Links will be to the books' webpages, not any reviews I've posted; there'll be a comprehensive list of reviews at the end of the post.  For series, I'll only list the first volume.  A book's being included in the TBR listing is not a guarantee I'll review it here or at Futures Past and Present.

Let's get started, shall we?

Destroying Your Career with Email in Just a Few Easy Clicks

I'm guessing many, if not most, of you have heard about this by now, but in case you haven't and your mind is in need of being boggled:

If this were fiction, no one would believe it.  You can't write this stuff.  Ya just can't.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We're not Divorced Yet, but We're Definitely Separating

It began like many relationships do.  At first there was the allure, the excitement, the promise of adventure and romance and suspense, of new experiences and unique horizons opening up.  As time went on, the relationship deepened and became one of the central focuses of my life.  There were many good years together.

But as often happens, one party began to take the other for granted, with give and take becoming less give and more take.  I was expected to take what was offered, with little or no input.  And what was offered weren't the things that drew me to the relationship in the first place.  The relationship became stale, predictable, dull.  Furthermore, my wants and needs meant less and less to the other party, with decisions about the things central to the relationship being made with the apparent expectation I should be thankful the other party was there at all.  Everything became the same, and I began to be unfulfilled.

I began to seek fulfillment elsewhere, with new partners.  And I found it.  All the adventure and excitement that first attracted me so many years ago were there, all the-

What's that?  My marriage?  It's just fine, thank you.  Why do you ask?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Final Robert E. Howard Anniversary This Year

Cross Plains Universe
Scott A. Cupp and Joe R. Lansdale, ed.
Monkey Brain Books
296 p.
Given free to attendees of the 2006 World Fantasy Convention

In all the hubbub earlier this year about all the anniversaries related to Robert E. Howard, one seems to have been overlooked.  This year marked the fifth anniversary of the publication of Cross Plains Universe, an anthology put together to mark the Robert E. Howard centennial as well as the 30th anniversary of Lone Star Universe, an anthology of Texas writers. 

Now as anniversaries go, the fifth isn't all that big a deal unless you forget and your wife has to remind you.  (Can I get an "Amen" from the brethren?)  Also, this book was never made for sale to the general public, at least as far as I know.  If you weren't able to attend the 2006 World Fantasy Convention in Austin or one of the following Howard Days, where the book was made available in the gift shop, you probably haven't seen a copy.  I'd even wager that many of you might not be aware of its existence. 

If you are able to score a copy, do so.  It's worth your while.  A brief perusal of the contents will show you why.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night

Here's wishing each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dispatches From the Lone Star Front, Christmas Edition: The Santa Claus Bandits

This is going to be brief, in part because Damon Sasser did a thorough write-up on this crime last year, and I see no need to repeat what he said.  Also, Damon quoted from one of Robert E. Howard's letter describing the crime.  Instead, I'll provide a brief summary of what happened and then get into why I was reminded of this.

Site of Ratliff's lynching
In short, four men robbed the First National Bank in Cisco, Texas on Friday, December 23, 1927.  The men were Marshall Ratliff, Henry Helms, Robert Hill, and Helm's brother-in-law, Louis E. Davis.  The men started from Wichita Falls, in Northwest Texas.  They chose the bank in Cisco because Ratliff's mother once ran a cafe there, and he knew the city.  To keep from being recognized, Ratliff wore a Santa suit into the bank.

Things went wrong from the get-go.  The end result was 14 causulties, including 6 fatalies, three people (all children or teens) kidnapped, two gun battles, and the first manhunt from the air in the state.  Davis died of his wounds received in the first gun battle, Helms went to the electric chair, and Ratliff was lynched after killing a deputy sheriff in an attempted jail break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Apples in Peril

Empire State
Adam Christopher
Angry Robot

27 December 2011
416pp Trade Paperback
$12.99 US $14.99 CAN

27 December 2011

If you like pulp superheores, noir, action, mystery, and a fun read, then this is the book for you.  If you notice, the release date on this novel is two days after Christmas, so you will have something to buy with that Christmas money Grandma always sends.

I was fortunate to score an eARC through the Robot Army, and I'm glad I did.  The storyline wasn't quite what I was expecting, but that's good.  Angry Robot has a pretty solid track record of publishing stuff that isn't the same old thing.

So what's the story about, you say?  I'm glad you asked that.

It's Christmastime, Which Means Layoffs

It's the season of layoffs, at least at Wizards of the Coast.  Jeff Grub explains why here.  It's an entertaining and ultimately sobering explanation of why so many positions tend to be cut around the holidays.  Makes me glad I'm not in the corporate world.  Also reinforces my desire to be self-employed (despite the persecution from the KGB IRS that career path will incur) when I eventually leave academia.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Historical Fiction in eBook Format

This may come as old news to many of you, and if it does, it just means I'm more behind the curve than I thought.  I was reading a post over at the Passive Voice, and found a link in one of the comments that I thought might be of interest to those who peruse this here blog.  The site is Historical Fiction eBooks, and while most of the books in the ancient and medieval categories appear to be romances or classical mysteries set in past epochs, I did see one or two that seemed to be more action oriented.  Anyway, I'll probably give one or two of them a try at some point.  In the meantime, I thought I would pass the link on in case anyone else wants to take a look.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

She Takes After Her Parents More Than Her Brother Does

The Third Section
Jasper Kent
Pyr Books
Trade Paper, 479 p., $17.95

Okay, I know what I want for Christmas.  A time machine.  That way I can go forward in time and pick up copies of the next two volumes of the Danilov Chronicles and read them.  Now.  Because I don't want to wait.  Jasper Kent says on his website that the next two books won't be out until 2013 (provisional title, The People's Will) and 2014 (provisional title The Last Oprichnik).  The world could end before then (like next year, maybe?), and then what would I do?

Oh, well, nothing much I can do about publication schedules.  Instead let me encourage you to start reading this series if you haven't already.  Each book is different than the last, but if Kent continues to maintain the quality he has so far, this series will be greater than the sum of its parts.

And if you haven't read either of the preceding books, Twelve and Thirteen Years Later, reviewed here and here, this review will contain spoilers for those two but not The Third Section.

RIP Euan Harvey

I've been mostly buried in finals and haven't checked the internet much over the past few days, so I didn't hear about Euan Harvey's passing from cancer until a couple of hours ago.  For those of you who don't recognize the name, Euan was an up and coming author whose work I greatly enjoyed.  He wrote the type of fantasy I most like to read, sword and sorcery and adventure oriented fantasy.  He had work appearing in two issues of Realms of Fantasy this past year which I reviewed, April and June.  In both cases, I felt he had one of the better stories in the issue.  He was also a contributor to Home of Heroics

John O'Neill has posted a tribute at Black Gate in which states there is a Harvey story forthcoming in the next issue.  If you haven't read his work, try to track some of it down.  It's worth it. 

He will be missed.

Damn it, enough dying already.  I'm getting tired of posting obituaries.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Artist David Burton Passes Away

Damon Sasser is reporting this morning that artist David Burton has passed away.  Burton's many credits include Sasser's REH:  Two Gun Raconteur.  He was also praised by Edgar Rice Burroughs' grandson Danton Burroughs, who said that his illustrations of A Princess of Mars were the best anyone had done.  Damon has written a tribute to David, which is here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Told You So

This isn't exactly breaking news.  I've known about it for a couple of days but had other things I wanted to discuss; I have no idea how long the announcement was been out there.  What am I talking about?  John Joseph Adams' announcement that Lightspeed and Fantasy were going to merge into a single magazine.  I think the way he's going about it is smart.  It also falls right in line with what I suggested recently about what should happen if anyone decides to resurrect Realms of Fantasy again.

Specifically, my suggestion to cut back on the nonfiction in the magazine and focus more on the fiction.  If you read his announcement, that's what Adams is doing with the two magazines.  He's cut the nonfiction back considerably, while leaving the amount of fiction the same.   Actually that's only true if you read the magazine online.  If you subscribe, there's an exclusive novella with each issue.

In other words, here's a publisher who realizes people read his magazine primarily for the fiction, and furthermore he's taking steps to ensure they get what they want.  I said this was the smart way to run a fiction magazine when I reviewed the last issue of RoF.  Now that someone with the credentials of John Joseph Adams thinks the same thing and is willing to act on that idea, I'm going to say "I told you so."

I wish Mr. Adams and his magazine the greatest success.  Oh, and I told you so.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Personal Appreciation of Darrell K. Sweet.

As most of you probably know, one of my all time favorite artists died Monday.  Darrell K. Sweet was the first artist I ever became aware of by name.  It was something of a circuitous process.

I grew up reading comics, but when Star Wars (the original film) came out, I got bitten by the science fiction bug hard and started reading that almost exclusively.  Commercial fantasy hadn't quite experienced a boom, although there was some around.  Not too long after the movie, I noticed a novel (maybe in the library, maybe in the bookstore) that had Darth Vader on the cover.  The title was Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and it was written by some guy named Alan Dean Foster.  Although I don't remember actually doing so, I bought the book, read it, and enjoyed it.  (I still have that copy.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

RIP, Darrell K. Sweet

I just learned that we lost one of our greatest artists today.  As reported by Locus Online and Tor, Darrell K. Sweet passed away this morning.  He was one of the most recognizable artists in the field.  I grew up reading books he illustrated, and he was a personal favorite of mine.  I'll post a more personal eulogy sometime in the next day or so.  It's late, and this is one I want to take my time with.  Darrell K. Sweet, 1934-2011; he will be missed.

Trying Twitter

I'm giving Twitter a try.  Hopefully this experiment will be more successful than Facebook was back in the summer.  (I need to figure out why Facebook converted the blog page into a personal page, which I don't want, and try again.)  Anyway, in case any of you are interested, here's where you can follow me:  @AdvntrsFntastc.  Hopefully, I can figure how to get the avatar to load before the day is over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Review of the Final (?) Issue of Realms of Fantasy, Plus Some Suggestions

Well, I had hoped it would never come to this.  While Realms of Fantasy hasn't exactly been my favorite magazine, I'm very sorry that it has ceased publication and this will be my final review.  For the time being, at least.  It's come back twice before, so we can always hope. 

This issue wasn't planned as a final issue, so I don't know if there were any stories still in inventory.  I imagine if there were, the authors were paid a kill fee and hopefully some of them will see publication elsewhere.

Publisher William Gilchrist said in his farewell post on the magazine's website that the October issue would appear in print and would be late. He indicated that the issue should be available by November 15.  I haven't seen it, but it might not have arrived yet.  B&N tends to be late getting the print copies.  I bought the PDF version from the website.

Anyway, let's look at the fiction.