Over the last year or two, the most popular question thrown my way is: Why aren't you on Twitter?

So let me answer this one with a question of my own: Why should I be?

From what I've seen so far, it doesn't look as though I'm missing out on a whole lot. . . And where would all those detractors more comfortable bitching about me behind my back go!?! :P

Game of Thrones: Episode 8 Preview

More Arya and Jon! =)

Star Wars: Choices of One

It's been quite a while since I read a Star Wars book. More than six years, actually. After reading Matthew Stover's lackluster adaptation of the lackluster Revenge of the Sith, I was in no hurry to give another Star Wars book a shot.

But when the ARC for Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: Choices of One showed up in my mailbox, something about it piqued my curiosity. Zahn brought me back to Star Wars during my senior year of high school when Heir to the Empire was first released. And though I haven't read Zahn's Star Wars novels since Vision of the Future came out, I've always had a sweet spot in my heart for the author's work set in the Star Wars universe.

And since the story occurs between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, I knew I could read and enjoy this one without having read the countless Star Wars offering that have flooded the market over the years.

Here's the blurb:

The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker’s next move.

But have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?

Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.

Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz’s treason and smash the Rebels for good.

But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played

I've read a lot of Star Wars books over the years, yet I feel that no other author has ever been able to truly capture George Lucas' vision the way Timothy Zahn managed to do. A couple of pages into Choices of One, and I was immediately drawn back to my youth and enjoying every minute of it.

Though readers familiar with the Star Wars universe may get more out of this novel, fans of the movies will nonetheless be in for a pleasant reading experience. Sure, you might be unaware of the existence of Mara Jade and the renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Justice, but the story features enough familiarity to satisfy anyone. And it might even entice some to go back and read a few other Zahn Star Wars titles. I know that's the case with me. . .

Set a few months following the Battle of Yavin, although the action takes place in a number of unknown systems, readers both old and new to the Star Wars universe will feel comfortable with the various environments featured in Choices of One. The worldbuilding doesn't intrude on the tale and remains in the background. Zahn provides what information one needs to follow the story's progress, but little else is needed.

The characterization was my favorite aspect of the novel. Understandably, Zahn has it a bit easy, what with his working with beloved protagonists from both the films and the multitude of books set in Lucas' universe. An innocent and do-gooder Luke who remains a kind-hearted dumbass; Han and Leia, bent on antagonizing one another because they cannot come to terms with the fact that they are attracted to each other; Chewie, whose succint growls carry a lot of meaning; a younger Thrawn, rising star among Imperial officers; Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand; LaRone and his stormtrooper crew. Put all these ingredients together and the recipe can't be anything but good. Yet add to that an array of secondary characters comprising a pleasantly surprising supporting cast, and you have yourself a nice Star Wars romp!

As fun and entertaining as Choices of One turned out to be at the beginning, it seemed to suffer from a decidedly linear plot which would be a bit predictable. But with a won-over crowd, who would care, right? Wrong. Timothy Zahn switches gears in the middle, unveiling a more convulated and hence more satisfying story arc which added another dimension to this book. Moreover, the ending sets the stage for The Empire Strikes Back.

Choices of One will not blow your mind. But if you are looking for a fun read featuring familiar faces you have grown to love; if you are looking to recapture the essence of what made you fall in love with the first movie trilogy in the first place; then Choice of One just might be the perfect summer read you've been craving!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

Peadar Ó Guilín contest winners!

Thanks to the generosity of Peadar Ó Guilín, our three winners will get an autographed set of the first two installments in The Bone World trilogy. The prize pack includes:

- The Inferior (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Deserter (Europe)

The winners are:

- Jan-Fabian Humann, from Kaiserslautern, Germany

- Michel Nita, from Col. Roma, Del. Cuauhtemoc, Mexico

- Henri Rautanen, from Helsinki, Finland

Many thanks to all the participants! =)

Excerpt from James S. A. Corey's LEVIATHAN WAKES

Thanks to Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, here's an excerpt from James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe

You can read another extract here.



Detective Miller sat back on the foam-core chair, smiling gentle encouragement while he scrambled to make sense of the girl's story.

“And then it was all pow! Room full up with bladeboys howling and humping shank,” the girl said, waving a hand. “Look like a dance number, ‘cept that Bomie's got this look he didn't know nothing never and ever amen. You know, que?”

Havelock, standing by the door, blinked twice. The squat man's face twitched impatience. It was why Havelock was never going to make senior detective. And why he sucked at poker.

Miller was very good at poker.

“I totally,” Miller said. His voice had taken on the twang of an inner level resident. He waved his hand in the same lazy arc the girl used. “Bomie, he didn't see. Forgotten arm.”

“Forgotten fucking arm, yeah,” the girl said as if Miller had spoken a line of gospel. Miller nodded, the girl nodded back like two birds doing a mating dance.

The rent hole was three cream-and-black-fleck painted rooms – bathroom, kitchen, living room. The struts of a pull-down sleeping loft in the living room had been broken and repaired so many times they didn't retract anymore. This near the center of Ceres' spin, that wasn't from gravity so much as mass in motion. The air smelled beery with old protein yeast and mushrooms. Local food, so whoever had bounced the girl hard enough to break her bed, they didn't pay enough for dinner. Or maybe they did, and the girl chose to spend it on heroin or malta or MCK.

Her business, either way.

“Follow que?” Miller asked.

“Bomie vacuate like losing air.” the girl said with a chuckle. “Bang-head hops, kennis tu?”

“Ken,” Miller said.

“Now, all new bladeboys. Overhead. I'm out.”

“And Bomie?”

The girl's eyes made a slow track up Miller, shoes to knees to his porkpie hat. Miller chuckled. He gave the chair a light push, sloping up to his feet in the low gravity.

“He shows, and I asked, que si?”

“Como no,” the girl said. Why not?

The tunnel outside was white where it wasn't grimy. Ten meters wide, and gently sloping up in both directions. The white LED lights didn't pretend to mimic sunlight. About half a kilometer down, someone had rammed into the wall so hard the native rock showed through, and it still hadn't been repaired. Maybe it wouldn't be. This was the deep dig, way up near the center of spin. Tourists never came here.

Havelock led the way to their cart, bouncing too high with every step. He didn't come up to the low gravity levels very often, and it made him awkward. Miller had lived on Ceres his whole life, and truth to tell, the Coriolis effect up this high could make him a little unsteady sometimes too.
“So,” Havelock said as he punched in their destination code, “did you have fun?”

“Don't know what you mean,” Miller said.

The electrical motors hummed to life, and the cart lurched forward into the tunnel, squishy foam tires faintly squeaking.

“Having your outworld conversation in front of the Earth guy?” Havelock said. “I couldn't follow even half of that.”

“That wasn't Belters keeping the Earth guy out,” Miller said. “That was poor folks keeping the educated guy out. And it was kind of fun, now you mention it.”

Havelock laughed. He could take being teased and keep on moving. It was what made him good at team sports; soccer, basketball, politics.

Miller wasn't much good at those.

Ceres, the port city of the belt and the outer planets, boasted 250 kilometers in diameter, tens of thousands of kilometers of tunnels in layer on layer on layer. Spinning it up to .3g had taken the best minds at Tycho Manufacturing half a generation, and they were still pretty smug about it. Now Ceres had over six million permanent residents, and as many as a thousand ships docking in any given day meant upping the actual population as high as seven.

Platinum, iron, and titanium from the belt. Water from Saturn, vegetables and beef from the big mirror-fed greenhouses on Ganymede and Europa, organics from Earth and Mars. Power cells from Io, Helium-3 from the refineries on Rhea and Iapetus. A river of wealth and power unrivaled in human history came through Ceres. Where there was commerce on that level, there was also crime. Where there was crime, there were security forces to keep it in check. Men like Miller and Havelock, whose business it was to track the electric carts up the wide ramps, feel the false gravity of spin fall away beneath them, and ask low-rent glitz whores about what happened the night Bomie Chatterjee stopped collecting protection money for the Golden Bough Society.

The primary station for Star Helix Security, police force and military garrison for the Ceres station, was on the third level from the asteroid's skin, two kilometers square and dug up into the rock so high Miller could walk from his desk up five station levels without ever leaving the offices. Havelock turned in the cart while Miller went to his cubicle, downloaded the recording of their interview with the girl, and reran it. He was halfway through when his partner lumbered up behind him.

“Learn anything?” Havelock asked.

“Not much,” Miller said. “Bomie got jumped by a bunch of unaffiliated local thugs. Sometimes a low-level guy like Bomie will hire people to pretend to attack him so he can heroically fight them off. Ups his reputation. That’s what she meant when she called it a dance number. The guys that went after him were that caliber, only instead of turning into a ninja badass, Bomie ran away and hasn't come back.”

“And now?”

“And now nothing,” Miller said. “That's what I don't get. Someone took out a Golden Bough purse boy, and there's no payback. I mean, okay, Bomie's a bottom feeder, but . . .”

“But once they start eating the little guys, there's less money coming up to the big guys,” Havelock said. “So why hasn't the Golden Bough meted out some gangster justice?”

“I don't like this,” Miller said.

Havelock laughed.

“Belters,” he said. “One thing goes weird and you think the whole ecosystem's crashing. If the Golden Bough's too weak to keep its claims, that's a good thing. They're the bad guys, remember?”

“Yeah, well,” Miller said. “Say what you will about organized crime, at least it's organized.”

Havelock sat on the small plastic chair beside Miller's desk and craned to watch the playback.

“Okay,” Havelock said. “What the hell is the 'forgotten arm?'”

“Boxing term,” Miller said. “It's the hit you didn't see coming.”

The computer chimed and Captain Shaddid's voice came from the speakers.

“Miller? Are you there?”

“Mmm,” Havelock said. “Bad omen.”

“What?” the captain asked, her voice sharp. She had never quite overcome her prejudice against Havelock's inner planet origins. Miller held a hand up to silence his partner.

“Here, Captain. What can I do for you?”

“Meet me in my office, please.”

“On my way,” he said.

Miller stood, and Havelock slid into his chair. They didn't speak. Both of them knew that Captain Shaddid would have called them in together if she'd wanted Havelock to be there. Another reason the man would never make senior detective. Miller left him alone with the playback, trying to parse the fine points of class and station, origin and race. Lifetime's work, that.

Captain Shaddid's office was decorated in a soft, feminine style. Real cloth tapestries hung from the walls, and the scent of coffee and cinnamon came from an insert in her air filter that cost about a tenth of what the real foodstuffs would have. She wore her uniform casually, her hair down around her shoulders in violation of corporate regulations. If Miller had ever been called upon to describe her, the phrase “deceptive coloration” would have figured in. She nodded to a chair, and he sat.

“What have you found?” she asked, but her gaze was on the wall behind him. This wasn't a pop quiz; she was just making conversation.

“Golden Bough's looking the same as Sohiro's crew and the Loca Greiga. Still on station, but . . . distracted, I guess I'd call it. They're letting little things slide. Fewer thugs on the ground, less enforcement. I've got half a dozen mid-level guys who've gone dark.”

He'd caught her attention.

“Killed?” she asked. “An OPA advance?”

An advance by the Outer Planets Alliance was the constant bogeyman of the Ceres security. Living in the tradition of Al Capone and Hamas, the IRA and the Red Martials, the OPA was beloved by the people it helped and feared by the ones who got in its way. Part social movement, part wannabe nation, and part terrorist network, it totally lacked an institutional conscience. Captain Shaddid might not like Havelock because he was from down a gravity well, but she’d work with him. The OPA would have put him in an airlock. People like Miller would only rate getting a bullet in the skull, and a nice plastic one at that. Nothing that might get shrapnel in the ductwork.

“I don't think so,” he said. “It doesn't smell like a war. It's . . . Honestly, sir, I don't know what the hell it is. The numbers are great. Protection's down, unlicensed gambling's down. Cooper and Hariri shut down the underage whorehouse up on six, and as far as anyone can tell it hasn't started up again. There's a little more action by independents, but that aside, it's all looking great. It just smells funny.”

She nodded, but her gaze was back on the wall. He'd lost her interest as quickly as he'd gotten it.

“Well, put it aside,” she said. “I have something. New contract. Just you. Not Havelock.”

Miller crossed his arms.

“New contract,” he said, slowly. “Meaning?”

“Meaning Star Helix Security has accepted a contract for services separate from the Ceres Security assignment, and in my role as site manager for the corporation, I'm assigning you to it.”

“I'm fired?” he said.

Captain Shaddid looked pained.

“It's additional duty,” she said. “You'll still have the Ceres assignments you have now. It's just that, in addition . . . Look, Miller, I think this is as shitty as you do. I'm not pulling you off station. I'm not taking you off the main contract. This is a favor someone down on Earth is doing for a shareholder.”

“We're doing favors for shareholders now?” Miller asked.

“You are, yes,” Captain Shaddid said. The softness was gone, the conciliatory tone was gone. Her eyes were dark as wet stone.

“Right, then,” Miller said. “I guess I am.”

Captain Shaddid held up her hand terminal. Miller fumbled at his side, pulled his own out, and accepted the narrow-beam transfer. Whatever this was, Shaddid was keeping it off the common network. A new file tree appeared on his readout labeled JMAO.

“It's a little lost daughter case,” Captain Shaddid said. “Ariadne and Jules-Pierre Mao.”

The names rang a bell. Miller pressed his fingertips onto the screen of his hand terminal.

“Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile?” he asked.

“The one.”

Miller whistled low.

Maokwik might not have been one of the top ten corporations in the belt, but it was certainly in the upper fifty. Originally, it had been a legal firm involved in the epic failure of the Venusian cloud cities. They’d used the money from that decades long lawsuit to diversify and expand, mostly into inter-planetary transport. Now the corporate station was independent; floating between the belt and the inner planets with the regal majesty of an ocean liner on ancient seas. The simple fact that Miller knew that much about them meant they had enough money to buy and sell men like him on open exchange.

He’d just been bought.

“They're Luna-based,” Captain Shaddid said. “All the rights and privileges of Earth citizenship. But they do a lot of shipping business out here.”

“And they misplaced a daughter?”

“Black sheep,” the captain said. “Went off to college, got involved with a group called the Far Horizons Foundation. Student activists.”

“OPA front,” Miller said.

“Associated,” Shaddid corrected him. Miller let it pass, but the flicker of curiosity passed through him. If the OPA attacked, he wondered which side Captain Shaddid would be on. “The family put it down to a phase. They've got two older children with controlling interest, so if Julie wanted to bounce around vacuum calling herself a freedom fighter, there was no real harm.”

“But now they want her found,” Miller said.

“They do.”

“What changed?”

“They didn't see fit to share that information.”


“Last records show she was employed on Tycho station, but maintained an apartment here. I've found her partition on the network and locked it down. The password is in your files.”

“Okay,” Miller said. “What's my contract?”

“Find Julie Mao, detain her, and ship her home.”

“A kidnap job, then,” he said.


Miller looked down at his hand terminal, flicking the files open without particularly looking at them. A strange knot had tied itself in his guts. He'd been working Ceres security for sixteen years, and he hadn't started with many illusions in place. The joke was that Ceres didn't have laws, it had police. His hands weren't any cleaner than Captain Shaddid's. Sometimes people fell out airlocks. Sometimes evidence vanished from the lockers. It wasn't so much that that it was right or wrong, as that it was justified. You spend your life in a stone bubble with your food, your water, your air shipped in from places so distant you could barely find them in a telescope, and a certain moral flexibility was necessary. But he'd never had to take a kidnap job before.

“Problem, detective?” Captain Shaddid asked.

“No, sir,” he said. “I'll take care of it.”

“Don't spend too much time on it,” she said.

“Yes, sir. Anything else?”

Captain Shaddid's hard eyes softened like she was putting on a mask. She smiled.

“Everything going well with your partner?”

“Havelock's all right,” Miller said. “Having him around makes people like me better by contrast. That's nice.”

Her smile didn't change except to become a half a degree more genuine. Nothing like a little shared racism to build ties with the boss. Miller nodded respectfully and headed out.

* * *

His hole was on the eighth level off a residential tunnel a hundred meters wide with fifty meters of carefully cultivated green park running down the center. The main corridor’s vaulted ceiling was lit by recessed lights and painted a color of blue that Havelock assured him matched the Earth's summer sky. The idea of living on the surface of a planet, mass sucking at every bone and muscle and nothing but gravity to keep your air close sounded like a fast path to crazy. The blue was nice, though.

Other people followed Captain Shaddid's lead and perfumed their air. Not always coffee and cinnamon, of course. Havelock's hole smelled of baking bread. Others opted for floral scents or semipheromones. Candace, Miller’s now ex-wife, had preferred something called EarthLily that had always made him think of the waste recycling levels. These days, he left it at the vaguely astringent smell of the station itself. Recycled air that had passed through a million lungs. Water from the tap so clean it could be used for lab work, but it had been piss and shit and tears and blood and would be again. The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way.

He poured a glass of moss whiskey, a native Ceres liquor made from engineered yeast, then took off his shoes and settled onto the foam bed. He could still see Candace’s disapproving scowl and hear her sigh. He shrugged apology to her memory and turned back to work.

Juliette Andromeda Mao. Not a name to conjure with. He read through her work history, her academic work. Talented pinnace pilot. There was a picture of her at eighteen in a tailored vac suit with the helmet off: pretty girl with a thin lunar citizen's frame and long black hair. She was grinning like the universe had given her a kiss. The linked text said she'd won first place in something called the Parrish/Dorn 500k. He searched briefly. Some kind of race only really rich people could afford to fly in. Her pinnace – the Razorback – had beaten the previous record and held it for two years.

Miller sipped his whiskey and wondered what had happened to a girl with enough wealth and power to own her own private ship that would bring her here. It was a long way from expensive space races to hogtied and sent home in a pod. Or maybe it wasn’t.

“Poor little rich girl,” Miller said to the screen. “Sucks to be you, I guess.”

He closed the files and drank quietly and seriously, staring at the blank ceiling above him. The chair where Candace used to sit and ask him about his day stood empty, but he could see her there anyway. Now that she wasn’t here to actually make him talk, it was easier to respect the impulse. She’d been lonely. He could see that now. In his imagination, she rolled her eyes.

An hour later, his blood warm with drink, he heated up a bowl of real rice and fake beans – yeast and fungus could mimic anything if you had enough whiskey first – opened the door of his hole, and ate dinner looking out at the traffic gently curving by. The second shift streamed into the tube stations and then out of them again. The kids who lived two holes down – a girl of eight and her brother of four – met their father with hugs, squeals, mutual accusations, and tears. The blue ceiling glowed in its reflected light, unchanging, static, reassuring. A sparrow fluttered down the tunnel, hovering in a way that Havelock assured him they couldn't on Earth. Miller threw it a fake bean.

He tried to think about the Mao girl, but in truth he didn't much care. Something was happening to the organized crime families of Ceres, and it made him jumpy as hell. This thing with Julie Mao?

It was a sideshow.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

This from The Wall Street Journal:

Something strange is happening to mainstream fiction. This summer, novels featuring robots, witches, zombies, werewolves and ghosts are blurring the lines between literary fiction and genres like science fiction and fantasy, overturning long-held assumptions in the literary world about what constitutes high and low art. Following a string of supernatural successes, including last summer's hit "The Passage," a vampire epic by literary novelist Justin Cronin, and the recent surprise breakout "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness, novelists from across the literary spectrum are delivering fantasy-tinged narratives.


The explosion of fantasy titles from mainstream authors is eroding decades-old divisions in the publishing industry. "Genre" fiction, which includes categories such as detective fiction, romance, horror, science fiction and fantasy, exists in a sort of parallel publishing universe, with separate imprints, bookstore shelves and dedicated fan websites. Genre titles massively outsell literary fiction, but most works are snubbed by mainstream book critics.

In the face of declining print sales, major publishers are increasingly seeking crossover hits that break genre molds and resonate with a broad swath of readers. Fantasy and science fiction made up 10% of adult fiction sales last year, compared with 7% for literary fiction, according to a survey by book industry analyst Bowker. In 2010, 358 fantasy titles hit the bestseller list, up from 160 in 2006, according to a study by Stuart Johnson & Associates and Simba Information, which track books sales.

The windfall from crossover hits can be huge. Charlaine Harris's vampire novels, which spawned the HBO series "True Blood," became a massive hit, with nearly 21 million copies in print, and more than one million Kindle copies sold. That's minor league compared with Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series, with 116 million copies sold and J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels, with more than 400 million copies sold, both of which crossed the young-adult divide to reach a broad adult audience. Supernatural-thriller writer Dean Koontz has sold 450 million books


One only has to browse bookstore aisles to see that the barriers between genres haven't fully dissolved. Books by Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury often occupy shelves in science fiction and fantasy, not literature. Even as established literary authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth and Michael Chabon experiment with science fiction tropes like alternate history and post-apocalyptic civilizations, a bias against genre lingers in literary circles.


Fantasy fans often note that the divide between popular and literary fiction was established relatively recently by the modernists, who favored hyperrealism over plot and narrative. Throughout history, pillars of the literary canon, from Homer, Dante, Milton and Shakespeare up through Jules Verne, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, blended natural and supernatural elements. The pendulum may now be swinging back, with literature that can be both popular and literary, realistic and fantastical.

In a sign that the geek revolution is well underway, publishers pushed fantasy titles by the dozens this week at the Book Expo America in New York, the U.S. publishing industry's biggest convention. Random House's Bantam imprint marketed its biggest summer title: George R.R. Martin's book "A Dance With Dragons," the fifth novel in his epic fantasy series, which has sold more than six million copies in North America and spawned an HBO show. Macmillan's Thomas Dunne Books spotlighted an upcoming zombie novel co-written by the author of "The Walking Dead" comic book series. At Doubleday's booksigning events, promoters dressed as circus magicians passed out caramel popcorn with ads for "The Night Circus," Erin Morgernstern's debut novel about rival magicians who fall in love. "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuck signed copies of "Damned," a novel set in hell that comes out in October

Follow this link to read Alexandra Alter's full article.


In the same vein, Iain M. Banks wrote an article titled "Science fiction is no place for dabblers" for The Guardian a few weeks back:

The point is that science fiction is a dialogue, a process. All writing is, in a sense; a writer will read something – perhaps something quite famous, even a classic – and think "But what if it had been done this way instead . . . ?" And, standing on the shoulders of that particular giant, write something initially similar but developmentally different, so that the field evolves and further twists and turns are added to how stories are told as well as to the expectations and the knowledge of pre-existing literary patterns readers bring to those stories. Science fiction has its own history, its own legacy of what's been done, what's been superseded, what's so much part of the furniture it's practically part of the fabric now, what's become no more than a joke . . . and so on. It's just plain foolish, as well as comically arrogant, to ignore all this, to fail to do the most basic research. In a literature so concerned with social as well as technical innovation, with the effects of change – incremental as well as abrupt – on individual humans and humanity as whole, this is a grievous, fundamentally hubristic mistake to commit.

Science fiction can never be a closed shop where only those already steeped in its culture are allowed to practise, but, as with most subjects, if you're going to enter the dialogue it does help to know at least a little of what you're talking about, and it also helps, by implication, not to dismiss everything that's gone before as not worth bothering with because, well, it's just Skiffy and the poor benighted wretches have never been exposed to a talent the like of mine before . . .

In the end, writing about what you know – that hoary and potentially limiting, even stultifying piece of advice – might be best seen as applying to the type of story you're thinking of writing rather than to the details of what happens within it and perhaps, with that in mind, a better precept might be to write about what you love, rather than what you have a degree of contempt for but will deign to lower yourself to, just to show the rest of us how it's done

You can read the full piece here.


It turns out that Jeff VanderMeer didn't quite like Banks' article, which prompted him to give his own two cents on the topic:

…but…it takes a lot of time and effort to write a novel. The paychecks aren’t always necessarily that big. I kind of hope most writers are writing out of affection toward what they’re writing about, even as, of course, everyone wants to make a decent wage while doing so.

I might also point out that (1) the originality of ideas rarely seems to be the reason for most SF novels to exist—prudent recycling can yield good results; (2) non-SF audiences may not particularly care about the originality of the idea as opposed to the execution (including characterization), and (3) a lot of “SF” writers I’ve read recently don’t seem to have read much science fiction, either.

On the other hand, in some ways Banks’ fiction might prove his point. I don’t really hate his various incursions into “mainstream literary” subjects, but I do prefer the author’s science fiction more, and I know I like the SF because Banks does have a great knowledge of the field. I’m fairly sure his space opera is much wiser and richer because of that knowledge.

But that’s a different thing to say. For me to say this about a particular writer working in a particular specialized subgenre doesn’t mean I’m engaging in the same kinds of gross generalities as Banks in his article—at least I hope not. Mea culpa, if so

Follow this link to read VanderMeer's blog post.

Mark Charan Newton: Questions of Aesthetics in Fantasy

Author Mark Charan Newton came up with an interesting blog spot regarding the aesthetics in the fantasy genre. Here's an extract:

Why are the aesthetics of most secondary world fantasy novels quasi-medieval?

Why that approximate period more than any other? Sure there are Roman-tinged fantasies, those with Viking flavours and whatnot, but even those are rarities in the modern genre. I’m sure it’s not even particularly a conscious thing, but it just so happens that many – if not most – secondary world fantasy novels are set in a quasi-medieval Europe, something vaguely reminiscent of the Middle Ages, in terms of technology, culture, architecture, even in terms of political arrangements


There are some broad, sweeping answers to this, none of which quite satisfy me:

1. It’s all Tolkien’s fault.

2. It’s all George R.R. Martin’s fault.

3. Fantasy is pastoral, romantic – a symptom of yearning to escape from complex technological times.

4. We’re preoccupied with history, with re-imagining the past; an opposite, in some ways, of science fiction, that imagines the future.

5. We’ve all got a castle/power/wizard fetish. We dream of surroundings and opportunities that are way beyond quotidian life, because most of us will never be able to afford such luxuries/status/power. It is a yearning for capital.

6. Magic doesn’t seem as impressive when modern technology has an equal wow factor (or, iPads are better than spells).

7. Publishers won’t publish anything else, goddammit, so let’s blame them. It’s a conspiracy.

8. Something to do with swords and Freud.

I wonder about all of these points since, as a writer, I’m looking to exploit the reason people are interested in various forms of literature, and I like to look for ways to have my fun with it. But I can’t really find a satisfactory answer to why a good chunk of the genre is made up of a Middle Age Dreamland

Follow this link for Newton's full article.

Don't forget to check out the comment section, where Tobias S. Buckell and Hal Duncan offered their two cents!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 24th)

In hardcover:

Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning maintains its position at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Albert Brooks' 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America debuts at number 16.

Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear is up five positions, ending the week at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

John Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation debuts at number 23.

John Ringo's The Hot Gate is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 28.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down three positions, ending the week at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up two spots, finishing the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords is up five positions, ending the week at number 10.

Charlaine Harris' Dead in the Family is down one spot, finishing the week at number 15.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is up eight positions, ending the week at number 19.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down nine positions, ending the week at number 20 (trade paperback).

Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is up six spots, finishing the week at number 23.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings debuts at number 34 (trade paperback).

A Game of Thrones Parody

These clips are actually pretty funny! :P

Thanks to Kristen Nedopak for sharing them on Facebook!

Game of Thrones: Another Episode 7 Preview

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.

It shall not end until my death... I shall live and die at my post.

I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls.

I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.

I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

Are books an endangered species???

Finally an article on publishing's sure-to-fail business model!

This from Forbes:

It’s not just that books are going to Kindles and iPads. It’s that books are going away, and the publishers have no one but themselves to blame.

The traditional New York publishing business model — publish a ton of books, fail to market most of them, and hope that somebody buys something — worked well when publishers had a hammerlock on the distribution and marketing of books. Publishers essentially faced no competition and enjoyed complete control of what books people could publish and sell


Publishers can also blame Amazon for the collapse of their industry. When you went into a bookstore, you typically browsed and bought a handful of books, each from a different department. Amazon killed browsing. You go on, you find the book you wanted, you pay, and you leave. So instead of buying five books, you buy just one.

But the real reason why books are going to vanish is the remarkably un-business-like business model of the publishers. Think of General Motors — decades of inefficiency, but without the federal bailouts.

In no other industry do producers actually wait passively to see what products are suggested to them, instead of doing market research to see what people really want to buy. Yet publishers seldom generate book ideas; instead they wait for literary agents to submit proposals. Houses decide which book to publish based on little more than a gut feeling that says, “I think we can make money selling this!”


At BEA next week, the attendees will solemnly discuss the latest trends, discuss how to get 70-year-old authors to use Twitter, and generally party like it’s 1989. But for traditional publishing, the party’s over. They just don’t want to realize that it’s time to turn out the lights.

Follow this link to read Michael Levin's full piece.

Most popular review in the history of the Hotlist

Since my recent post about the Hotlist's top 10 posts of the last twelve months piqued the curiosity of a lot of readers, many of you wrote to ask about the most popular review in the history of the blog.

Though I don't have the exact numbers, it is doubtless the review for Steven Erikson's Reaper's Gale. Simon Taylor sent me a set of page proofs more than 3 months before the book's release date, and since there were no ARCs my review was the only one out there. Understandably, it was linked all over the place.

But the number 2 spot is held by a novel which was a failure to launch on basically every level. Those who were already fans of the Hotlist in 2007 will probably have fond memories of my review for David Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale.

Things had gotten off to a shaky start when the author made a bit of an ass of himself in an interview we did before I read his debut.

Bloated and slow-paced, it took me about a month to finish The Wanderer's Tale. Moreover, Bilsborough's debut forced me to reconsider my unwritten rule to always complete a novel I begin reading. Since then, any book that fails to catch my interest will be dropped and go unreviewed.

Follow this link to read (or reread) what is likely the second most popular review in the history of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

Sneak Peek of John Picacio's A Song of Ice and Fire 2012 Calendar

Award-winning artist John Picacio just posted these on his blog.

The 2012 ASOIAF calendar will debut at the San Diego Comic Con and will be released to the general public on July 2011.

You can pre-order it now: Canada, USA, Europe.


I was asked to participate in SF Signal's latest Mind Meld:

The television adaptation of Game of Thrones was an immediate hit. What other fantasy novel(s) do you think would make an excellent weekly series? What, if anything, would you change for the small screen?

Follow this link to read my and the other panelists' answers.


Hey guys,

I was trying to get you an exclusive extract from GRRM's forthcoming A Dance With Dragons (Canada, USA, Europe) and suggested to Martin and his editor that perhaps we could go with the scene in which Yours Truly gets butchered quite violently. I had a feeling that whatever scene a character based on me met his bloody demise wouldn't have any sort of impact on the plot, that it would mainly be spoiler-free and hence make the perfect teaser excerpt.

Well, Anne Groell just told me that we can't go with that scene. It appears that Ser Patrek of King's Mountain meets his maker at the end of ADWD and the scene contains MAJOR spoilers. I was excited enough as it is, but now my curiosity is truly piqued! Anne assured me that it's a very good death, so I can't wait!!!

Stay tuned for a giveaway in early June. . . And there will be a little twist to this contest. Anne had a fun and interesting idea, one I've decided to run with.

Don't know if we'll get an extract, though. . .

Cover art for Saladin Ahmed's THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON

This definitely has an 80s AD&D feel to it.

Saladin Ahmed's fantasy debut, Throne of the Crescent Moon, is one of my most eagerly anticipated speculative fiction titles of 2012. I haven't seen Betsy Wollheim as excited about a new author since Patrick Rothfuss!

Label me intrigued. . . =)

Carrie Vaughn interviews Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck

NYT bestselling author Carrie Vaughn sits down with the writers to talk about Leviathan Wakes. James S. A. Corey is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

A group of indie booksellers has called for a boycott of Amazon's new Thomas & Mercer crime novel imprint

Since the eBook piece of a few days ago generated some discussions, here's another interesting piece from Joe Konrath's blog:

You may know that my publisher, Hyperion, dropped my Jack Daniels series after six books, even though they continue to sell well as backlist titles. The only way I could get print books in the series into the hands of fans was to sign with another publisher.

Thomas & Mercer stepped up to the plate to give my fans what they want: more Jack Daniels books.

Amazon allowed me to get into bookstores--something self-pubbing couldn't do for me without a lot of extra work on my part. They offered me a terrific deal, and have done more marketing and promotion than any of the publishers I've previously worked with.

They've treated me with nothing but respect, listened to and implemented many of my ideas, and have been an absolute joy to work with.

They're the new publisher on the block. But they're already doing it better than anyone else.

This trend won't end with me. Amazon will continue to publish more and more authors, because the major publishers are making a lot of major mistakes and a lot of writers are getting hurt by the Big 6.

So my question to indie bookstores is: When other authors sign with Amazon, and they will, are you going to boycott them as well? What happens when it is a major, bestselling author? Is this how you service your customers, by limiting the amount of choice they have?

Follow this link for the full article.

Ex Machina (reviewed by Brian Ruckley)

When Brian Ruckley asked me if he could review another graphic novel, I was happy to oblige! Ruckley is the author of the Godless World trilogy, which is comprised of Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe), Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe) and Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe). His newest work,The Edinburgh Dead (Canada, USA, Europe) will be published later this year.

This time, he went for Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. The books are available in trade paperback format (Canada, USA, Europe) or deluxe hardcover editions (Canada, USA, Europe).


Ex Machina, first published as a monthly serial back in 2004 and now concluded and available in various collected formats, is a pretty unusual superhero comic.

Our hero comes with all the standard trappings: mysterious powers, fancy costume (of gorgeously retro design, including cool jetpack) and super-villain nemesis. It’s even set in New York, which is pretty much the definitive iconic setting for superhero hi-jinks. So far so predictable, but what the writer, Brian K Vaughan, produces is decidedly not predictable, because Ex Machina’s got a lot more than conventional superheroics in its DNA. It’s also a high concept alternate history sf romp, and a faintly West Wingish political drama. A potentially indigestible ingredient mash, but somehow Vaughan makes it work. I’ll get to my one or two reservations later; first, the good stuff. Which is very good.

The central character, Mitchell Hundred, is indeed a superhero, but he’s retired. He hung up his jet pack in order to pursue a new career as ... the mayor of New York city. These two aspects of Hundred’s life form the (strictly adhered to) narrative structure for the entire story, as present day political and conspiratorial shenanigans alternate with flashbacks to his past crimefighting adventures. The two strands illuminate and comment on each other, and although it occasionally feels a wee bit repetitive as a technique, on the whole it works well. They also converge in various ways as Hundred’s past, particularly the mysteries surrounding the origin of his superheroic power to control machinery with his voice, comes to dominate and disrupt his present.

Now and again you come across some piece of fiction (well, I do anyway) and get a strong, immediate sense that it’s the work of a creator with an unusually clear understanding of and control over his or her medium. That’s the case with Ex Machina, especially in the first few chapters. The way Vaughan addresses the events of 9/11 – a relatively recent horror at the time of first publication – and makes them pivotal to his story, without (to my comfortably distanced mind, at least) in any way trivialising them, is ambitious writing of quite a high order. Throughout, he adeptly exploits the incremental nature of serialised comics, sprinkling cliff-hangers and clues around, threading sub-plots through larger plot arcs that themselves slot together to gradually reveal the bigger picture. His control of story pacing, rhythm and flow on the page and from scene to scene is terrific. The whole thing feels like a well-oiled machine.

And now a rather perverse, nitpicky reservation. It’s just possible this machine is a little too well-oiled for me. This might well just be an idiosyncratic feature of my reader-brain, so your mileage may vary, but I can’t shake the feeling that sometimes the sheer craftsmanship on display in Ex Machina overwhelms the heart, and leaves the end result just a fraction cold and calculating. Everything is so skilfully organized, and managed, and constructed, that I now and again had the sense of being a passenger, busy admiring how brilliantly and meticulously the vehicle was bolted together, rather than being a fully immersed and emotionally engaged reader of a living, organic fiction.

There’s certainly enough going on plot- and character-wise to grab and hold the reader’s attention. Mayor Hundred wrestles with a succession of political and personal dilemmas, all the while trying to both free himself of and resolve the unfinished business of his superhero antics. Those antics, shown in flashback, are some of my favourite parts of the whole story. It’s a pretty convincing portrayal of how someone trying to be a superhero in the real world might get on, i.e. with difficulty. A well-intentioned guy with a jetpack is not, it turns out, a simple and easy solution to a city’s problems, either large or small. Nor, of course, is a well-intentioned guy sitting in the Mayor’s office.

The science fictional elements of the story come slowly to the fore as the source of Hundred’s abilities gradually reveals itself. By the time the grand climax arrives we’re firmly in speculative fiction territory, with the fate of the entire world, and perhaps others, in the balance. There are super-villains, citywide chaos, portals to ... somewhere else entirely, and so on. None of this, until the closing stages, overshadows the character-based political dramas playing out. For any student of recent American politics – particularly, I imagine, New York politics – there are rich pickings here, with everything from gay marriage through race relations to drug policy getting its turn in the spotlight. None of it’s dealt with in simple black and white terms, and trite resolutions are generally avoided, which is something of a relief.

The political side of things could have been a bit dry and dull, but it helps considerably that Vaughan’s got a knack for creating engaging, appealing characters. The supporting cast is diverse and entertaining, particularly Bradbury and Kremlin, Hundred’s secret support team in his superhero days; that little team is broken apart by Hundred’s move into politics, and their complicated and difficult relationship is one of the main engines of the whole plot. It’s not just those three, either. Pretty much every character of any consequence is written well enough to feel plausibly real.

There is a good deal that could be said about Tony Harris’ artwork here in Ex Machina, and I’m about to fail to do the subject justice due to limitations of time and space (and also because, as a writer I can’t help but rather focus on the writing when I’m reading and talking about comics).

Fittingly for a series with such a distinctive voice, the art is out of the ordinary. A good deal of it is photo-referenced, in the most literal sense. Harris photographed friends and family acting out the scenes, and then precisely replicated those images in his art. The effect is striking, to say the least. It results in a detailed, precise and realistic style which is very nice but does sometimes give the figures a rather static, artificially posed feel; hardly surprising, given that’s exactly what they sometimes are. The action scenes, of which there are a lot, are on the other hand generally fluid and dynamic and engrossing, presumably because it’s a bit impractical to get a friend to pose as if flying with a jetpack.

I should mention as well that some of the scenes Harris depicts are seriously high on the gore quotient. Although it’s by no means a constant feature, there are sections that mix very bloody violence in with the sf, superheroics and politics. It is shown in graphic but unsensationalist detail, in tune with the realistic tone of all the art and writing. Not something those averse to such stuff will necessarily enjoy, though.

I’ll finish with a brief reflection on beginnings and endings, which I think we can all agree are kind of important in any piece of fiction . In Ex Machina, Brian K Vaughan delivers one of the strongest, cleverest openings you could ever hope to see, in any medium. The first twenty-nine pages (yes, I counted them; twice, in fact, just to be sure) are a masterclass in the compressed introduction of characters, setting and backstory, and foreshadowing of what is to come, that leave the reader with little choice but to keep reading. On the very first of those pages, Mitchell Hundred even gives away – in general terms – how the whole thing is going to end. ‘It may look like a comic, but it’s really a tragedy,’ he says.

Which brings us to the ending. Amidst all the climactic fighting and save-the-world drama, the real ending, the one that I think matters, is concerned with what becomes of certain key characters. This, like the opening chapter, is something of a masterclass in concise, sharp storytelling. It delivers effectively on the promise of tragedy, and does it primarily by focusing on character, not on action. But – if a reviewer’s allowed to admit to indecision – I can’t entirely make up my mind whether the writer laid quite enough groundwork with the characters concerned to make all that happens and is revealed feel truly satisfactory. Sadly I can’t go into more detail without unleashing the dreaded spoilers, so suffice it to say this story has a rather dark, somewhat unexpected and in many ways challenging closing chapter that will make the reader think and perhaps reconsider much of what has gone before. I suppose you can’t ask much more of an ending than that.

So there you have it. I definitely recommend Ex Machina as a demonstration of what talented creators can do when they push themselves, and their medium. I do so with only this fairly minor, personal qualification: it is possible to be dazzled by the creative and technical accomplishment embodied in a piece of work without falling unconditionally in love with it.

Game of Thrones: Episode 7 Preview

Oh yeah. . . =)

The Hotlist's Top 10 posts of the last year

Looking at the stats from the Hotlist sometimes leave me perplexed. Some posts I know will be extremely popular, while others rack up hits for apparently no reason whatsoever.

Case in point: The ten posts which generated the highest amount of traffic via outside links since May 2010.

Can you guess which post ended up in pole position!?! I sure couldn't. . . But for some reason, it is by far the most popular post of the last year.

Interesting to see a post from 2009 getting so many views. Some are the usual suspects, of course. Yet some I didn't expect to see making the short list.

Here's the Top 10:

Number 10
Number 9
Number 8
Number 7
Number 6
Number 5
Number 4
Number 3
Number 2
Number 1

I wonder which posts will make the Top 10 a year from now. . .

The Annoyances of eBooks

Because we've come to take printed books for granted, we tend to overlook their enormous flexibility as reading instruments. It's easy to flip through the pages of a physical book, forward and backward. It's easy to jump quickly between widely separated sections, marking your place with your thumb or a stray bit of paper or even a hair plucked from your head (yes, I believe I've done that). You can write anywhere and in any form on any page of a book, using pen or pencil or highlighter or the tip of a burnt match (ditto). You can dog-ear pages or fold them in half or rip them out. You can keep many different books open simultaneously, dipping in and out of them to gather related information. And when you just want to read, the tranquility of a printed book provides a natural shield against distraction. Despite being low-tech - or maybe because of it - printed books and other paper documents support all sorts of reading techniques, they make it easy to shift seamlessly between those techniques, and they're amenable to personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.

E-books are much more rigid. Refreshing discrete pages of text on a fixed screen is a far different, and far less flexible, process than flipping through pliant pages of fixed text. By necessity, a screen-based, software-powered reading device imposes navigational protocols and routines on the user, allowing certain patterns of use but preventing or hindering others. All sorts of modes of navigation and reading that are easy with printed books become more difficult with electronic books - and even a small degree of added difficulty will quickly frustrate a reader. Whereas a printed book adapts readily to whoever is holding it, an e-book requires the reader to adapt to it

Follow this link for the full article by Megan McArdle.

Trailer for Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon

I can't make up my mind. . .

This looks like it could be as fun as the first Transformers movie. Or as bad as Transformers 2... :/

It would be fun if they did a Transformers movie in which it's not just about robots blowing shit up and Shia LaBeouf getting the girl and saving the day. . .

Ian Cameron Esslemont contest winner!

Our lucky winner will receive a set of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Malazan novels, compliments of the kind folks at Tor Books! The prize pack includes:

- Night of Knives (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Return of the Crimson Guard (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Stonewielder (Canada, USA, Europe)

The winner is:

- Bill Philpot, from Franklin, Ohio, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!