Win an autographed copy of Joe Abercrombie's LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS

Thanks to the cool folks at Gollancz, I have three copies of Last Argument of Kings signed by Joe Abercrombie himself for you guys to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

For those of you who don't believe in their chances, know that (the Europe link above) still offers the book at 45% or 50% off, depending on whether you're going for the trade paperback edition or the hardback.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "ARGUMENT." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Say one thing about Pat, say he runs some terrific contests!;-) And he's pretty fly for a white guy!:p

Quote of the day

Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.

- GEORGE R. R. MARTIN, A Storm of Swords

The only time I laughed out loud while reading A Song of Ice and Fire!

New James Barclay Interview

If you feel that this interview should have come sooner, you're absolutely right. When I reviewed Cry of the Newborn (Canada, Europe) last summer, I had already told James that I would interview him. Then I went on vacation to New York City and Washington, D. C., and promptly forgot all about it. Blame those Argentinian girls for that!:p

The important thing is that, at some point, I remembered! So here we are! Following this interview, should you want to learn more about James Baclay, feel free to peruse these websites: and

I've been meaning to read the sequel to Cry of the Newborn, titled Shout for the Dead (Canada, Europe), for a while now. Hopefully I will do it sooner than later. . .


- For the benefit of those not familiar with you and your work, what can you tell us about James Barclay the author?

Well, I’m an English fantasy author. I’ve been writing ever since I was eleven years old, it’s just something I’ve always done. My first book was Dawnthief. It was published in 1999 and kicked off the stage of The Raven, my group of heroes. There have been six novels in the series so far and another to come. In between, I’ve written a novella and a big sweeping epic fantasy duology but more about that later, I think.

I’ve always written in the fantasy genre, and I don’t see myself moving away in any serious way for the foreseeable future. I love what fantasy provides. The escape it gives me as a writer and a reader. I’m proud to be associated with the genre. I don’t pretend to write literary fantasy. I’m a thriller writer at heart and though later books have considerably more depth in terms of subject and detail, I’ll not lean too far from action, I don’t suppose.

I write the sort of books I want to read, the sort that I was not finding when I set out to be a novelist. I love the thrills of a good action novel, the pace, the repartee, the bordering-on-the-outrageous stunts that heroes can pull. I love watching characters grow throughout a series, seeing them develop far away from their roots… y’know, just like real people. I get criticised for my characterisation at times but I think it unfair. People are deep and complex and as a rule reveal very little about themselves in the short-term. They are also inconsistent beyond their basic principles. That’s probably the only consistent thing about us all…

I try to write books that entertain. I don’t wish to teach or preach. I want readers to have fun, to get engaged with my characters and become lost in the action. I think I get it right quite a lot of the time.

- You made a name for yourself with The Chronicles of the Raven and Legends of the Raven. Without giving anything away, what can you tell potential readers about those two trilogies?

In a nutshell, they are heroic action fantasy. Very fast paced; heaps of action and pithy dialogue; characters you grow to love but should not become too attached to if you can help it; plots that involve love, friendship, honour, courage and redemption; also scheming, cheating, politics, assassination, treachery, hack and slay. Violence too. Because the world is one of sword and magic fighting. These two things equal much blood and death if you ask me and I don’t believe in sugaring the act or consequences of violent action. I leave that to Errol Flynn.

It’s well-known that the genesis of these books was a role-playing game called ‘Dragon Quest’ I played many years ago with a group of friends. And a super game system it was too. The group of characters in that game became ‘The Raven’ and the first novel, Dawnthief is a classic quest novel to a large extent. But I laid down some markers concerning action and lack of sentimentality nonetheless. The other five books in the two trilogies are not classic quest novels, not to my mind anyway.

The Raven are a group of mercenaries just past their prime but still the best fighting team in their world, Balaia. They take on one last big payday before retirement and end up in a fight to save the world from the return of an ancient evil. To do that they have to cast a spell so powerful it can destroy everything. Tricky business. That’s the guts of Dawnthief. All the later novels carry over story threads and consequences. I have invasions of dragons and demons, I have elven plagues, I have warring magic colleges, I have young children invested with power they cannot control.

And in the midst of it all, I have The Raven doing what they do. Their methods are sometimes questionable and you could argue they are morally grey but they believe in themselves and in the good that will ultimately come of their success. Some of the heroes make it to the end of each book but I don’t guarantee which ones. The ante is upped with each outing of The Raven. The consequences of failure become so much broader and all-encompassing.

Go out and buy, I say. Take a ride and don’t look back…

- Again without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of your latest series, The Ascendants of Estorea?

Totally different to The Raven. These are two books that deal the birth of magic in a crumbling empire. That empire is Romanesque, tatty at its outer reaches and beginning to rot at its centre. The magic manifests itself in four children who are the product of many generations of genetic selection to produce the first humans able to manipulate the elements around them.

The first novel, Cry of the Newborn, charts their development through a war that threatens the entire empire. They have to survive prejudice, religious intolerance, fear, hatred… you name it. And to a large extent, no one can teach them how to use what they have been given. Theirs is a true voyage of discovery. But the book isn’t just about them. It is about those who seek to save their empire, people who you can admire without necessarily agreeing that they should succeed, by the way. But there is room for love, humour and joy too. No day is perpetually dark.

The second novel Shout for the Dead is set a decade after the end of the first and deals with the consequences of war, the emergence of the Ascendants as a group defended by the empire machine but hated by the empire’s dominant religion. And it deals with the descent of one man into madness, delusion and his succumbing to the poison of overwhelming power. Now in this novel there are a few perpetually dark days. That’s probably because of the armies of the marching dead doing their master’s bidding.

Both books keep faith with my desire for dramatic action but I deliberately paced them slower than The Raven because I felt there was more to tell. More detail to be drawn, more character depth to be teased out. Great battles to fight and scenes to illustrate. They have scope and energy, these novels. Or they do to me. I loved writing them for the challenges they presented.

- What's the progress report on the new Raven novel you are working on? Any tentative release date yet?

Progress is excellent. The novel is called Ravensoul. It’s with my editor now and he is enjoying it. So far. I think he’ll do so to the end. I’ll know in a few days. The release date was going to be August 2008 but I understand that’s been put back a little now. October seems more likely.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the Raven series in the first place? What about The Ascendants of Estorea?

I mentioned earlier that The Raven came from a role playing game. But the spark wasn’t the quests and scenarios we undertook. I still remember sitting round the table, looking at these men and women, my friends, completely rapt by entirely fictitious events being played out on paper, decided on the roll of a dice and of given flesh by our imaginations. The desire to survive, the bond of the characters and the sheer energy we generated when playing, these are what provided the spark for The Raven. Because the group dynamic was so real. Bloody hell, the arguments we used to have, the joy at a victory and the sadness we all felt when one of our number died. Amazing. I wanted them to live on and so I wrote about them.

As for the Ascendants, well, I first had the germ of the idea way back in 1986 when I was still at college. For whatever reason, I knew then that it was too big for me to do justice to at the time. So it lay and festered away for a good long time. In essence, it’s so simple. The premise is: what happens to a world if on one day, there is no magic, and on the next, there is? The consequences on so many levels, personal, religious, societal, cultural, economic.. are enormous. Of course I needed to find the characters to make it work but at its heart, it is just one question.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I’d have to say its the action sequences. Battles, skirmishes, chases, hand to hand, one on ones, whatever. I do love writing that stuff. For me it’s all about making it credible. Well, credible enough. You have to give the reader the feeling of being right there in the middle of the blood and the fear, the noise and the stench. No battle runs true. Even chaos is too ordered a term, I sometimes think. I tend to write my fight scenes straight off the top of my head. No going back until the editing process, no choreography. I visualise it and I write what I see.

Mind you, I think my plotting is pretty good too. That isn’t chaotic. A sound plot stops the reader drifting off so I keep everything relevant. Everything moves the story along. I think some authors forget plot when their ideas get too grand. Readers can get lost in the expounding of theory upon theory. Then it doesn’t matter how cool your characters are. Got to maintain focussss.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write both series?

Kind of. In The Raven, I used much conventional fantasy stuff. Elves, dragons, magic colleges and the like. And I know some readers get turned off by elves and dragons but I needed races of that sort. Some authors try terribly hard to make new races and they are almost always pale imitations of fantasy staples. Why make it so hard? If it inhabits forests, has pointy ears and lives a long time, then it’s an elf. If it breathes fire, comes with leathery skin and scales, it’s a dragon.

Naturally, I wanted my own spin on both. So dragons have a complex society among themselves and are dimensional travellers, seeking links between themselves and other worlds to make them stronger. They live, love and die as families. They do not sit on gold. They have real purpose. They even love architecture, well some of them do, but being a bit clumsy with the average chisel they have to persuade others to build for them. Luckily for them, persuasion is none too tricky when you’re a hundred feet long and can incinerate flesh and bone at a considerable distance.

My elves have a deeply religious society involving multiple gods all linked to elements and the nature of the world they inhabit. They have two religious warrior castes tasked with defending the faith from outsiders. They are historically isolationist and intensely private. Incursion and invasion are treated extremely severely. These are not hoppy skippy singing elves. They live in a rainforest, a harsh environment, and it has made them very tough indeed. They use neither long bow nor horse. How could they? Actually, why does any forest-dwelling species ride horses so well? Horses are useful in open spaces, not dense woodland. Anyway. They are not tribal, their racial divisions run along the relative longevity of various genetic models of elf. Some live thousands of years, others live a few hundred.

For me, it’s not about ignoring fantasy staples and conventions, nor is it about trying to develop whole new races and setting yourself deliberately outside the norm, if you like. Because my books are about entertainment, I don’t want readers to have to ingest complex detail which is largely unnecessary as far as plot and pace are concerned. I want them to be comfortable with the world I’m writing in so that the story can live unencumbered. Have elves. Have dragons. Have dwarves if you want. Whatever. Just don’t write imitations of Gimli, Legolas and Smaug.

With the Ascendants, I wasn’t trying to break any convention. I did want to write about another world other than one based loosely on medieval England but it wasn’t to prove how clever I was. I just felt that legions and togas worked better in the atmosphere I was trying to create.

- Characters often take on a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

That would have to be Paul Jhered from The Ascendants of Estorea. He began life as a bit part player in the books. He is the Exchequer of the Gatherers – the head tax man, the iron fist of the Advocate (she who runs the Empire of Estorea, though I call it a Conquord, not an Empire). But he just stood up tall and demanded more involvement. He took the place of the character I had identified to do all that he does in the books. And his development as a character, the journey he goes on through the first book in particular, was one of my most rewarding writing experiences. Jhered finds depths inside himself that he did not know existed. Neither did I. Like I mentioned earlier, characters are unpredictable and therefore endlessly fascinating, it’s what brings them to life on the page. I’m very proud of Jhered. He’s currently my favourite hero and given my love of The Raven, that’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

New York Times Bestseller. Don’t get me wrong, I love the respect and recognition of my peers and my genre when I get it but I’m going to have to be horribly commercial and say that selling a lot of books to a wide audience is more important than a gong. Mouths to feed, career to build and all that sort of stuff.

- Are there any news pertaining to an American book deal?

Nothing yet. We’re hoping the new Raven book will finally knock over the first domino. It’s a question of patience and continuing to prod away where we can. I’m with a terrific agent and so in the best hands. It’s frustrating because I genuinely believe my work would be enjoyed by readers in the US. Indeed I have plenty of fans over there but all have had to shell out more than they ought to read my books. There’s even a school in New York studying my writing this year. But I can gnash my teeth all I want. US publishers are horribly commercial too and so they should be. So while I’m frustrated, I’m not complaining. Confused maybe…

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your books?

I think we all need to be honest here. Covers help to sell books. People have picked up my books because they liked the covers, or more specifically, the colour of the covers. Put it this way, it’s terribly PC to say that you need to look at the whole person to know if you are attracted to them. And I’m sure that, eventually, it’s true. But in the first instance, that’s crap. Which of us has ever asked out another on a date if we find them physically repulsive? The unfortunate might be the most intelligent, witty and loving person in the world but first impressions are important, critical even. They just are.

So it is with a book and its cover. If it leaps off the shelf to us, we are more likely to take it to the checkout. If this was not the case, all we would have would be plain covers with title and author name on the front in plain type. Covers are marketing and sales tools. Powerful ones too. And that means that cover art has to work very hard. It has to stand out from its peers and it has to either lead the reader into the story within, or engender a reaction in the mind that prods the reader into a purchase. I disagree wholeheartedly with covers that are not representative of the world within the pages but I can see why that is sometimes done.

I’m very happy with my covers. The original Raven covers were paintings by Fred Gambino and gave me the start I needed with readers of the genre – no doubt that Fred’s Dawnthief cover attracted readers. After all, in the early days when it was selling heavily, there was precious little other information, nor many reviews. The later covers moved me into a different sphere. We went for silhouette-style covers using black and a strong second colour. And they worked very well on the shelf. We’re going to re-jacket the series when Ravensoul comes out and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new artwork. I’m equally happy with the covers for the Ascendants books. A variation on the silhouette theme and one that works very well.

I’d like to say I felt the same way about some of the covers on my translations. I can’t. Some extraordinary artwork there. My French covers, for instance, are fabulous, really beautiful stuff. I won’t name and shame others though. But the thing is, publishers in their own countries know their marketplace. Or they should. So while I might not like what I see, I have to respect what they are trying to do.

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

There are some terrific blogs and boards out there and they are becoming a more and more useful resource for the genre from publisher to fan. As an indicator of trends and views, they are incredibly valuable though there is a band-wagon tendency on some boards which is not healthy. When a board is not properly controlled, an author can be praised to the heights or lambasted unfairly without any balance being shown. Blogs don’t tend to succumb to this, fortunately.

Absolutely I keep an eye on discussions. I love to know what’s out there and what people think. I’m a moderator on the sffworld boards because I think I can be of use, particularly on the writing forum there.

And heavens, yes, I take great notice when I’m being discussed. There’s nothing I like more than having my ego buffed to a dazzling shine, after all. Mind you, it isn’t all sweetness. My books have traditionally polarised the fantasy audience and so I get a bit of a kicking every now and again. I do comment on discussions of my own work but I’m very careful what I say. I don’t do self-promotion on message boards. I think that’s a sad way to go. I very much respect negative opinion even though I rarely agree with it. Authors need thick skins and the rise of the message board and blog means that opinion is out there in the public domain far more than even five years ago. That’s life. We none of us like being insulted and there is a fine line between criticism and insult which some posters need to learn. But if a criticism is thought out and articulated, what else can I do but accept it?

Does it distract me? Yes, but I keep a lid on it.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

Oh lord, who knows? There’s a big part of me that doesn’t care any more. I certainly used to. Now I just let the detractors get on with it and let them read the books they believe to be literary and not fantasy. They are, of course, wrong. Nearly every work of fiction could be described as fantasy if you want to go down that route.

I agree with you, there is a great body of work out there that should be read by a much wider audience than it is. It’s frustrating. SF&F are huge on TV but too many viewers would turn their noses up at the books that have given rise to the TV they love so well. You will hear that ‘anyone who likes books with elves and magic is a nerd’ yet the same people will have read and loved Tolkien ‘because it is a classic’. Sigh.

I don’t think there will ever be a day when we can point and say; ‘look, we have the respect of the world of literature!’ It’ll creep up and we won’t even notice. I think there is growing respect and appreciation of the talent working in our genre but each step is vanishingly small.

- Here's a chance for you to make your pitch. Why should jaded readers spend their hard-earned money on your novels?

The Raven. Pace, action, entertainment and escapism. Laugh one page and cry the next. Get away from your world for a moment and have some fun. It’s a rush. Strap yourself in and enjoy it.

The Ascendants. Immerse yourself. Come to Estorea and witness the birth of magic and the genesis of a new breed of human. Fight in the legion frontline. See the decisions taken at the highest levels of a vast empire. Follow heroes into battle. Taste the fear of the fight, the sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat. Grow with children learning to live with powers no one has had to cope with before. Live it and love it. Or Paul Jhered will come round your house and, err, persuade you it’s the right thing to do.

- Anything you wish to add?

Three vaguely linked thoughts…

Never stop reading. Never stop talking about the books you read. Pass your books to other people. No, wait. Make them buy their own copies, dammit. Books are wonderful. Not just fantasy. All of them. That’s because they make people talk. Love or hate a story you read, you have an opinion so get out there and tell others about it.

I feel very fortunate to be an author and it’s something I never take for granted. I feel a responsibility to produce the best work I can every single day. If I don’t, I stand to let people down and that is not acceptable.

I’m constantly surprised by the warmth and welcoming nature of the SF&F community. I’ve made good friends among fans, authors, agents and publishers. I love the fact that I’m not at war with my competitors. Mainly because I don’t view them as competitors. I don’t think other genres have such a closeness between author and reader. Long may that continue.

How’s that?

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 29th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is up two positions, ending its eleventh week on the charts at number 19. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane: Rule of Two is down three spots, finishing its third week on the NYT list at number 20. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic is down seven positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Patricia Briggs' Iron Kissed is down five spots, finishing its third week on the prestigious list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

David Weber's Off Amargeddon Reef maintains its position at number 26. This marks the novel's second week on the NYT list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of the Highlord Skies debuts at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Silver Bullet debuts at number 34. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a copy of the limited edition of Alan Campbell's LYE STREET

Once again, thanks to Bill and the Subpress crew, I have another limited edition up for grabs, this time Alan Campbell's new novella, Lye Street. And stay tuned for more Subterranean Press stuff in the coming weeks!;-)

This from Alan Campbell’s gloriously twisted and grotesque novella, Lye Street, the prequel to his debut novel, Scar Night, is in stock and shipping. Our edition of this novella — the only edition — features a full color wraparound dust jacket by Dave McKean, and tons of interior illustrations and text ornaments by Bob Eggleton. As to the tale itself, Publishers Weekly said “Campbell meshes pity with terror against the bleak phantasmagoric backdrop of a city suspended from chains, swinging dismally over a yawning abyss. In a civilization literally built upon nothing, dark magic and vengeance are the rule of the day, and Campbell will quickly have readers under his creepy and sometimes heartbreaking spell.”

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "STREET." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

HUNTER'S RUN contest winners!

The names have been drawn and we have our winners! Each will receive a complimentary copy of GRRM, Dozois and Abraham's Hunter's Run (Canada, USA, Europe), thanks to the cool folks at Eos.

The winners are:

- Christopher Robbins, from Brigantine, New Jersey, USA

- Donna Hickman, from Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA

- David Keith, from Washington, Indiana, USA

- Todd Tyrna, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA (ezzkmo on and

- Tim Midcap, from Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA (TimtheTrolloc on

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Kitty and the Silver Bullet

I had relatively high hopes for this newest Kitty adventure, and Carrie Vaughn didn't disappoint! As was the case with its three predecessors, Kitty and the Silver Bullet is a very entertaining read.

Kitty swore not to return to Denver. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has no choice but to go back. Problem is, Denver is the territory of the abusive pack of werewolves from which she escaped the year before. Even worst, as a "rogue" werewolf, she soon finds herself in the midst of a war between the two most powerful vampires in the city, a conflict which threatens the entire paranormal community.

Kitty and the Silver Bullet is once again told in the first person, giving us another opportunity to get into Kitty's head. The amalgam of Kitty's strengths and vulnerabilities makes her an extremely genuine character. We all know girls like Kitty Norville (the werewolf part notwithstanding, that goes without saying!), which makes it easier to root for her.

Breast cancer struck our family last year, so I was impressed by the way Carrie Vaughn depicted how it affects everyone involved. The involvement of Kitty's entire family added a new set of dynamics to this novel. Though there's plenty of supernatural conflicts between vampires and werewolves, there is nevertheless a more humane dimension which makes this book even more enjoyable.

Once more, character development and revelations help provide an even more satisfying reading experience. Secrets pertaining to the vampire Families are divulged. Those plotlines should be explored in future installments.

Fast-paced, the only problem is that you reach the end too quickly. Despite being the fourth volume in this series, the Kitty novels remain fun, fresh, and engaging. Yes, Carrie Vaugh has done it again!

Kitty and the Silver Bullet should please Vaughn's growing number of fans!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Consider yourselves warned!

The next couple of weeks will see the biggest amount of giveaways in the history of the Hotlist!

We don't get to choose the timing for these things, so there's no helping it. So you might want to drop by from time to time, as I will try to space them a few days apart to give each contest as much exposure as possible. Conscious of the spamming issue, not all of them will be pimped on the various message boards I frequent.

Keep an eye out for those giveaways. . .

Good stuff, with autographed copies, limited editions, and even a prize pack of about 10 books by one of the bestselling fantasy authors of all time!

There's some good shit ahead, I tell you!:p

Win an Advance Reading Copy of the Subpress limited edition of Neal Stephenson's SNOW CRASH

This one is quite special!

Thanks to Bill and the Subterranean Press crew, one lucky winner will get his or her hands on an ARC of the limited edition of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. So this is like winning an extremely limited edition of an already limited edition. It doesn't get much more "collector's item" than that!;-) For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, or

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "CRASH." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Steven Erikson contest winners!

Our five winners will get their hands on the reissue of Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, courtesy of Transworld. Hopefully this bargain-priced edition will generate more and more Malazan converts!;-)

The winners are:

- Jeff McGuirk, from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

- Zsolt Farkas, from Gyomro, Hungary

- Uroš Ilovar, from Ljubljana, Slovenia

- Mihai Adascalitei, from Roman, jud. Neamt, Romania

- Yvan Norsa, from Nancy, France

Thanks to all the participants!

NFL Showdown: GRRM vs Pat: The Verdict

Okay, the suspense is now over.

George R. R. Martin has selected which books I'll have to read as my "punishment" for losing that footbal bet. Man, I still can't believe the stupid Dallas Cowboys could lose to the damned New York Giants. Even worst, I'm now forced to root for the Giants in the Super Bowl, for there is no way in hell I'm going to cheer for the cheating New England Patriots.

Ah, the humanity. . .

The first book GRRM chose is S. L. Farrell's A Magic of Twilight, which will be released next month. Looks pretty good, and I'm curious to see what it's all about. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

His second selection is Melinda Snodgrass' The Edge of Reason, which will be published in May. I was kind of expecting this one, actually.

Lastly, GRRM wanted the Hotlist to be a vehicle to introduce a new generation of SFF readers to some "classics," so I agreed to read the first two Jack Vance Dying Earth books.

There you have it. Understandably, I would much prefer to die horribly in A Dance with Dragons, but alas. . .

More autographed books at The Signed Page

I forgot to mention this last week, but The Signed Page has autographed copies of a number of quality titles.

So if you're looking for a signed Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter F. Hamilton, Steven Erikson and more, all you have to do is click on this link:

Oh, before I forget, you can also get your hands on an autographed copy of Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic.

Check it out!;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 22nd)

In hardcover:

Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane: Rule of Two is down five positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is down four spots, finishing its tenth week on the NYT list at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic debuts at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Patricia Briggs' Iron Kissed is down two spots, finishing its second week on the charts at number 3. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Richard Matheson's I am Legend is down four positions, ending its 12th week on the bestseller list at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is down one spot, finishing its 41st week on the prestigious list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

David Weber's Off Armageddon Reef debuts at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a signed copy of Gail Z. Martin's THE BLOOD KING

Thanks to the author and the folks at Solaris, I have an autographed copy of Gail Z. Martin's The Blood King up for grabs. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "BLOOD." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Wild Cards cover art

I know I'm late posting this, but what the heck!?!

Here are the covers of the first two issues of the Wild Cards comics produced by the Dabel Brothers.

RENEGADE'S MAGIC contest winners!

Our five lucky winners will get their hands on a copy of Robin Hobb's latest, Renegade's Magic (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of the good folks at Eos.

The winners are:

- Brian Darvell, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

- Annie Frisbie, from Long Island City, New York, USA

- Andrew Gapen, from Los Osos, California, USA

- Craig Kline, from Tucson, Arizona, USA

- Erin Lilley, from Wooster, Ohio, USA (blackstormdragon on

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

The Malazan Book of the Fallen Graphic Adaptation

I should have posted this two weeks ago, but somehow it slipped my mind. . . Which reminds me that I should be posting those Wild Cards covers as well. . .

This new sketch from the Dabel Brothers depicts Gear, one of the Hounds of Shadow.


Saw this movie this afternoon. . .:-(


That's putting it succinctly. . .

Hal Duncan's take on "narrative grammars" of fantasy and science fiction

Thanks again to Larry for getting the word out concerning such posts.:-)

Duncan wrote a long and interesting post on his blog on the topic of "narrative grammars" in SFF.

Here's an excerpt:

Really, my earlier post is not so much an attempt to distinguish genres as it is an attempt to analyse the distinctions already at play, to unpack the politics of the argument(s). My own take on it is that the set-subset model of Fantasy and SF is just one model, that it's in conflict with the alternative subset+subset model in which SF and Fantasy are both contained within a larger superset. I may not have been clear enough in expressing my own belief both models are flawed. Truth is, I think the whole debate is fucked up beyond all reason, degenerated into endless disputes over semantic boundaries because the basic terms are overloaded. We end up talking at cross-purposes when we use these terms; some will mean the marketing category, some will mean works of a specific formula associated with that category, some will mean works of a particular aesthetic form they consider characteristic of that category, some will mean works of a multitude of aesthetic forms that are all published in that category, and some will mean the sum of all works in all those varied aesthetic forms, whatever category they were published in.

Clute acknowledges that the terms SF, Fantasy and Horror are problematic, but in accepting that we're stuck with them I think he fails to deal with this problem. In taking the subset+subset model as a given, treating SF, Fantasy and Horror as subtypes of the larger set of fictions he refers to as "fantastika", he presents his narrative grammars as the additional A, B and C which distinguish these genres from each other. But this approach, directly linking each label to a particular aesthetic form, is at odds with many who would use the terms as signifiers of a loose aggregation of works in multiple aesthetic forms, or who would see the underlying aesthetic form as something much less rigidly circumscribed in terms of narrative.

Read the entire piece here.

Eos Books -- Already a Decade under their belt!

To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Eos Books have created a new website,, where they'll make all their announcements pertaining to this year-long celebration.

Free E-books, interviews and more!:-)

Check it out!


Thanks to Neil Clarke, I have a complimentary copy of Realms: The First Year of Clarkesworld Magazine up for grabs. This anthology contains short fiction from critically-acclaimed authors such as Jeff VanderMeer, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Catherynne M. Valente, and more. Each piece was edited by Nick Mamatas and Sean Wallace and appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine. For more info about this title, click on this link.

Wyrm Publishing was founded by Neil Clarke and you can learn more about them on

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "REALMS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

New R. Scott Bakker Q&A

I know, I know. . .

I've been promising this one forever and it was a long time in coming. Shit happens, don't you know, and life got in the way, so Bakker couldn't get back to me for quite a while. Well, better late than never, as they say!:-)

Thanks to all the fans who submitted questions for this interview. As you're about to find out, many details have changed since the questions were forwarded to the author last spring. . .

Hope it was worth the wait!

- I know you have a visceral fear of spoilers, but you didn't think we'd let you go easy and not ask anything about THE GREAT ORDEAL. We've all read the blurb, of course, but what can you tell us about your upcoming novel?

Where did you get that title? That was just something I cooked up because you need to name the books for the contract. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. The first book is called, The Judging Eye, that is, unless one of my editors succeeds in arguing me into a different one!

All I’m willing to say is that the story picks up twenty years after the end of The Thousandfold Thought.

- When we spoke at the end of 2005, you were really excited about the prospect of beginning working on The Aspect-Emperor? Has it been a smooth/challenging process thus far?

Writing a book is always challenging, particularly when you’re writing a story across multiple installments, and even more so when you seem constitutively incapable of writing in a straight line like I am. I end up bouncing all over the place rather than sticking to the book at hand. For instance, the last chapter I finished was chapter three - chapter three! WTF...

Also, the fact that this is my career now has really settled in. I had to get my motivational ducks in order for this book - start looking at it as a job, while at the same time preserving my artistic commitments. Easier said than done, at least for me.

- Will we see more of the world -- geographically speaking -- in this new series?

Oh ya...

- In our last interview, you said that you were giddy at the thought of putting the Consult, the Inchoroi, the Nonmen and the Sranc into the narrative spotlight. Do you think fans will be pleased with the results?

I hope so! But it’s literally impossible to tell from the inside of a story what people will think from the outside.

- Are there specific themes you wanted to explore in this second series?

Specifically, I’m interested in what it means to live in a world where value is objective - which is to say, to live in the kind of world our ancestors thought they lived in. Could you imagine, for instance, what it would mean to live in a world where, say, the social and spiritual inferiority of women was a fact like the atomic weight of uranium. Biblical Israel was such as world, as were many others.

We have a hardwired predisposition to "naturalize" our values, to think what we value things is the way things are - it’s one of many liabilities we can chalk up to our stone-age brains. This is why fantasy worlds are our doubles, our psychology writ in geographical stone, and so worth exploring in their own right.

Other than that, there’s a number of carry-over themes dealing with belief and faith as the levers of action.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write The Prince of Nothing? How about The Aspect-Emperor?

I’m more keen on embracing the conventions than breaking them - the twisting seems to happen of its own accord. The biggie, the one that spans The Second Apocalypse in its entirety, is eschatology - no surprise there. What does it mean to live in a world with an objective narrative structure (which is to say, a world with a climax and an end)? And conversely, what does it mean to live in a world that doesn’t? The others, I think, are pretty obvious.

As for The Aspect-Emperor, my particular interest is the quest, and the ways in which the world itself becomes the primary antagonist. I’m also keen on exploring the idea and role of alternate races, be they sub or super human, as well as - brace yourself! - the young dispossessed king.

- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing The Prince of Nothing, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?

I know when I started working on The Judging Eye, I found myself inventing a whole series of new viewpoint characters. I didn’t realize what I was doing until I started reading A Feast for Crows, at which point I scrubbed them all save one. I told myself I was adding these new viewpoint characters for the reader’s sake, when in actual fact I was doing it for my own - I mean, multiply the time you’ve spent with The Prince of Nothing by a thousand, and you’ll have a rough ballpark sense of how much time I’ve spent with my cast. The urge to "freshen things up" is almost irresistible, as is the attendant assumption that you’re doing it as much for your readers as for yourself. But when you already have a complicated narrative on the go, you really do risk drifting across that fateful line where your story starts to decohere. Whether or not this was what happened with Martin’s last book, I’m not sure - all I know is that it threw what I was doing into perspective, and led me to take an entirely different tack. It took me a while, but I eventually fell back in love with the old fogies.

And I’ve never stopped being ga-ga over the world. I’m downright conceited when it comes to Earwa. My world kicks some major ass, man.

As a result I really feel as though I’ve been able to strike a better balance between the complexity of the story and the richness of the world in The Judging Eye, as compared to any of The Prince of Nothing books. It’ll be interesting to see what people think.

- Any word on a mass market paperback edition of The Prince of Nothing in the USA?

This summer, or so I’m told.

- How will The Aspect-Emperor differ from the Prince of Nothing trilogy?

Well, I can’t say it’ll be a duology anymore, because in the course of writing it ended taking a parallel form: the story breaks into three natural parts. The first book, The Judging Eye, does the same kind of frame-setting work that The Darkness That Comes Before does in The Prince of Nothing - only without the super-steep learning curve! The second, The Shortest Path, will be a travelogue, much like The Warrior-Prophet, and the third... well let’s just say we’ll be a long time cleaning the fan! One difference, I think, is that the relative lengths of the books will be inverted. The Judging Eye will be the shortest, and I anticipate the final book will be far longer than The Thousandfold Thought, which picked up on the doorstep of Shimeh. This could complicate things, since I would like to include an updated Encyclopaedic Glossary. Maybe I’ll have to break down and do a separate omnibus - but that just feels like a cash grab. Cheesy.

There will be some minor differences in style - I’ve tried to gear the lyricism of my prose more to character than to plot. There will also be substantially less narrative navel gazing - I think that was one area where I erred too much on the literary side in The Prince of Nothing. I want this story to crackle!

- Who will be publishing the Canadian edition? Penguin Canada are saying that they do not have the rights to the Canadian edition of this new book.

Well, someone should tell my editor at Penguin about that!

- Again, without giving anything away, what can you tell us about NEUROPATH? The last time we spoke, you told me that things were brewing in both New York and Hollywood.

Unfortunately, brewing doesn’t always mean beer.

It’s followed almost the same path as The Darkness That Comes Before: I’m swapping genres with this, so I should have expected I would have to prove my point all over again - let’s hope Neuropath pulls through the way The Darkness That Comes Before did! As of just a few weeks ago, I signed with Tor’s Forge Imprint for the US rights, and it looks like it will hit American shelves this upcoming September, several months behind the Canadian and UK releases.

Meanwhile, it’s in development in Hollywood, but so few books get made into movies that it’s like bragging about buying a lottery ticket.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

It would have to be the Serwe/Cnaiur dyad. Something so creepy happened that it almost became poetic, to my mind at least. I still feel surprised whenever I think about it.

- What inspired your decision to completely stop posting on the Internet a year ago? Fans say that has been a sad, quiet place since you went to ground.

Owich. Well, according to Jack Brown, one of the fine fellows who run the board, it’s literally receiving millions of hits per year, so maybe I’m a ‘lurker-magnet’ or something...

As for withdrawing from the web, it was just too much mental clutter, on the one hand, and too much of a distraction from work on the other. Imagine working in a room next to another room filled with people who are both slagging and praising you every day. You would have to get sound-proofing, otherwise the impulse to press your ear against the wall would be overwhelming. So now I work on a laptop with no Internet, and try to avoid using this ol’ beast as much as I can.

I steer clear of cell-phones as well. It makes me feel like a secret agent, being all, like, incognito...

- How hard was/is it to get inside Esmenet's head and portray her? What were/are the main inspirations for her character?

I’m afraid Esmenet is one of those characters whose origins extend so far back I can no longer remember them. She was actually one of the easier characters to write - though now, after having learned more about prostitution, I’m inclined to think I romanticized her way too much. The crazy thing is that if I had made her realistic, I’m pretty sure she would have been almost universally despised, and I would have been even more severely criticized for making her "weak."

- How hard is it to write Kellhus? Given his nature and intellect, I presume it must be challenging to make him "believable."

The strange thing is that to write is to be Kellhus - in an sense. In the same way Kellhus can think a dozen thoughts and assess numerous possibilities where others can only think one, I get to spend hours, even days, cooking up stuff for a Kellhus section that only takes several minutes to read. I just keep thinking and thinking and sooner or later I get lucky and come up with something smart or bad-ass sounding to give to Kellhus. He’s the 1% smart-me 100% of the time - which is why I don’t trust him for a second.

- The genre exhibits a strong (albeit recent) tradition for subverting gender stereotypes by presenting worlds in which strong, independent female characters are plausible or even expected. Yet your world is as patriarchal as the reality that inspired it. I expect that this theme makes up for a good part of the discussions you have about your creation, possibly detracting from what you actually want to talk about. Is it difficult to resist the temptation to put something like a bad-ass tomboy warrior-princess with snappy dialogue and a heart of gold into the books?

First, let me say that I think I should be called out on the carpet on this issue, simply because I cover some pretty troubling ground. I certainly don’t believe in "quota characterization," either to be politically correct or to broaden the "gender appeal" of my books. Leave this for the after-school specials. I also don’t think that depiction automatically equals endorsement. The question that people should be asking, it seems to me, is one of whether I reinforce negative gender stereotypes or problematize them. If the books provide enough grist to argue this question, then the answer, it seems to me, automatically becomes the latter.

But the fact remains that a lot of people get hung up on my female characters: On the one hand, I self-consciously chose the harlot, the waif, and the harridan for my female characters, yet some seem to think a kind of unconscious moral defect chose them for me. If so, it would be a truly colossal coincidence that I would happen to pick the three misogynic types - I mean, isn’t it obvious that I’m up to something critical? On the other hand, I wanted my fantasy world to be realistic, to temper our yearning for premodern times with a good look at how ugly things got, particularly in times of war. When bad things happen to my female characters, it’s the circumstances that are being criticized, not the characters themselves!

But people get hunches while they read, and once they do, confirmation bias goes to work (and this is simply one among many reasons why we always buy our own bullshit), and the text, I think, possesses more than enough ambiguities for people spin any number of self-validating interpretations. It’s when they insist their interpretation is the only interpretation, or even worse, that it captures what’s really going on in my bean, that I become baffled.

- M. John Harrison recently wrote this post on his blog:

"Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’’s victim, & makes us very afraid."

Needless to say, a multitude of people disagree with Harrison's postulation. What's your take on Harrison's post and the concept of worldbuilding in general?

As a diehard grognardian world-junkie myself, I obviously disagree. But it is a blog, which means that it’s probably written without much forethought. Consider his observation that worldbuilding can never "exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there." Who thinks that the "biggest library ever built" is a goal any writer seriously entertains? You can't do it, the argument seems to be, so why bother trying? But no one outside of characters in Borges stories have ever tried to do this. No one. Ever. He’s just riffing without thinking here.

And he’s also referring to science fiction, where the situation is somewhat different than in fantasy. It makes me wonder what he would think of a work like Neil Stephenson’s Diamond Age, where much of the worldbuilding isn’t "technically necessary," and yet necessary all the same. My guess is that it probably boils down to worldbuilding he enjoys reading versus worldbuilding he doesn’t, and his arguments are just ad hoc rationalizations.

The "clomping foot of nerdism" sounds pretty cool. Makes me feel like a bespectacled, buck-toothed Godzilla, building worlds instead of tearing them down. Aaaargh!

What troubles me most though are the unconditional, declarative tone - as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world that worldbuilders are "bad writers" - and the insinuations regarding the psychological type of the worldbuilder.

Worldbuilding either is or is not "necessary" depending on the effects the writer is hoping to achieve. Of course Harrison would say that worldbuilders, such as myself, are trying to achieve the wrong effects. Detailing a world beyond the technical requirements of the story, the implication is, simply turns readers into literary shopkeepers with inventories to keep and no meaningful choices to make. Thus the frightening psychology: apparently the worldbuilder’s goal is to cretinize their readers, keep’em dumb and distracted so that they can be better exploited by the powers that be.

For Harrison, who is an avowed post-modernist, the reader should be continually confronted with the performative as opposed to the representational function of language. They should be reminded (apparently over and over and over) of the power of words to spin realities, to the point where the work becomes a multifarious, promiscuous, meaning event (albeit one that is too often generated by the most mechanical of po-mo tactics, elision). Forcing the reader to draw whole characters out of fragments, narrative arcs out of discordant events - to "fulfill their part of the bargain" - this is the true way to make the reader an active part of the process, and so a critically minded, enlightened citizen.

I don’t know whether to laugh or yawn anymore. For better or worse, readers without literature degrees tend to hate this stuff. They like coherent characters and stories and settings. So when you start screwing with "representational expectations" (in other words, unilaterally rewriting the "bargain") by and large all you end up doing is preaching to the choir, writing for people with literature degrees, which is to say, for people who already share your values. In other words, you simply end up catering to their expectations. You become an "upscale" version of the very commercial entertainers you continually denigrate.

We’re hardwired for this shit, which is why you see the same pattern repeating itself over and over in every sphere of cultural production. Every sphere has a self-styled elite who both identify and flatter themselves via their values, then criticize others for not sharing those values. "Our values are the values and you guys are losers because of this and this and this..."

This pattern bums me out because it swallows so much talent in our society and aims it inward. Harrison really is a prodigious talent, but he can’t seem to see his way past this post-modern crap. This is another universal human pattern: whatever your yardstick happens to be, nothing else seems to measure up - it quickly becomes the yardstick.

Don’t blame the cretinized masses for not reading your stuff. If you really are afraid, if you really are a writer with a social conscience, then go out and meet them. Write something that communicates to them, and not just to those who already share your values. Stop writing for "yourself," or for the "page," or for whatever clever euphemism you use to cover the fact that you’re simply a producer of a kind of a high-end cultural commodity.

Until you do, you’re just another entertainer. Which is okay, so long as you’re not pretending otherwise. Say, "I write for people like me, and I’m not all that interested in making a social difference."

Me, I don’t know what my yardstick is half the time. All I know is that I think its important to write stories that challenge readers, and that if I write "literary stuff" my audience will self-select and I’ll just end up catering to expectations and so not really challenging anybody. What’s the use of pissing in the soup if its made of urine anyway?

When it comes to worldbuilding, I'm simply trying to tell a story that happens in a fantasy world bigger than that story. And there’s meaning-effects aplenty to be explored here, believe you me. Profound ones.

In fact, the very thing worldbuilders are probing is the selfsame power of words to spin realities, a power which is intensified when the writer approaches the world and the story as separate works - when the writer is also a worldbuilder. I personally think this is one of the keys to Tolkien's elusive magic: imagine The Lord of the Rings without a separately crafted Middle-earth! And because it resonates with a broad cross-section of readers, I think epic worldbuilding provides a powerful opportunity to communicate, one which "literary minded" writers are less likely to explore because of incredibly narrow "literary virtues" like those espoused here and elsewhere by Harrison.

But I imagine Harrison would think this power to spin realities, which is the one we regularly confront on the evening news, holds no "real" literary interest for "good" writers. I'm guessing it focuses too much on the pernicious representational aspects of language, and so numbs readers into forgetting all the ways language dupes and deceives - which is why they vote Bush (and why we should be afraid, I'm supposing).

But what if it works the other way? What if the canned experimentalism of post-modernism, by leaving so many readers behind, reinforces the general anti-intellectualism that seems to characterize our culture, and so makes anti-intellectual politicians like Bush more appealing? This only needs to be an open question to throw a rather severe light on the political undertones of Harrison's position. He could be the very scourge he's disparaging.

- Anything else you wish to share with your fans?

One thing: read A Mind of its Own by Cordelia Fine. You are not who you think you are - this is simply a fact. The quicker we as a species come to grips with this, the greater our chances of surviving the technologically mediated madness just over the horizon. Read it, then pass it on.

Is There Nepotism in Science Fiction

Once again, I have Larry to thank for finding this interesting article by Carol Pinchefsky.

Here's an excerpt:

Editors mingle with each other, as well as professional and fledgling writers, publishers, agents at science fiction conventions and other events. Many of them have longstanding personal as well as business relationships, including traveling together, sharing hotel rooms, and dating, marrying, and sometimes divorcing one another.

Add fans into the mix, some of whom have been attending conventions and meeting their favorite writers and editors for decades, and well, the word "incestuous" springs to mind.

Because of this ultra-socialization in the genre, editors tend to buy stories and novels from people that they often already know, at least tangentially.

Does knowing an editor personally -- and buying him a round at the bar -- increase a writer's chances of getting published? Are editors swayed by the charms of friendship and the chance to write off every lunch as a business expense? Is there favoritism in science fiction?

Read the whole article here.

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy contest winner!

Sorry about the delay! The winner's name was drawn during the Holidays, but I only now realized that I had never made the announcement! My bad. . .

Thanks to the nice folks at Solaris, our lucky winner will get his hands on The Solaris Book of New Fantasy (Canada, USA, Europe), which contains short stories by authors such as Lucius Shepard, Hal Duncan and Steven Erikson.

The winner is:

Paul Smith, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!:-)