The Geomancer


Thursday Caption Competition

I picked up a copy of Carey Rockwell's 1952 juvenile Stand By For Mars! in a thrift shop recently, and rattled through it in no time at all: hearty if dated fun, enlivened by a bunch of rather nice illustrations. Indeed, these are the sort of pictures that just cry out to be re-captioned. So I offer the book's frontispiece to readers of this blog [click on the image above for a larger version] with this challenge: the best caption in comments below wins the inestimable honour of the title Pyr Blog Thursday Caption Competition Laureate April 2009. So what are you waiting for? (You can see my offering, together with other illustrations from this book, over here).


World's Biggest Bookstore

Matthew Sturges (Midwinter), Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings) and Tom Lloyd (The Stormcaller, The Twilight Herald) at the World's Biggest Bookstore:

The World's Biggest Bookstore is located in Toronto, Ontario, at 20 Edward St, just north of the Toronto Eaton Centre.


For Your Viewing Pleasure: David Louis Edelman's Geosynchron

Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere
Design by Jacqueline Cooke
Coming February 2010


The Defense and Wellness Council is enmeshed in full-scale civil war between Len Borda and the mysterious Magan Kai Lee. Quell has escaped from prison and is stirring up rebellion in the Islands with the aid of a brash young leader named Josiah. Jara and the apprentices of the Surina/Natch MultiReal Fiefcorp still find themselves fighting off legal attacks from their competitors and from Margaret Surina's unscrupulous heirs -- even though MultiReal has completely vanished.

The quest for the truth will lead to the edges of civilization, from the tumultuous society of the Pacific Islands to the lawless orbital colony of 49th Heaven; and through the deeps of time, from the hidden agenda of the Surina family to the real truth behind the Autonomous Revolt that devastated humanity hundreds of years ago.

Meanwhile, Natch has awakened in a windowless prison with nothing but a haze of memory to clue him in as to how he got there. He's still receiving strange hallucinatory messages from Margaret Surina and the nature of reality is buckling all around him. When the smoke clears, Natch must make the ultimate decision -- whether to save a world that has scorned and discarded him, or to save the only person he has ever loved: himself.

Bradbury Award

Joss Whedon accepts the Bradbury Award from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the 2009 Nebula Award ceremony.


For Your Viewing Pleasure: Mark Chadbourn's The Silver Skull

Cover Illustration © Chris McGrath
Design by Jacqueline Cooke
Coming October 2009
A devilish plot to assassinate the Queen, a Cold War enemy hell-bent on destroying the nation, incredible gadgets, a race against time around the world to stop the ultimate doomsday device…and Elizabethan England’s greatest spy!

Meet Will Swyfte – adventurer, swordsman, rake, swashbuckler, wit, scholar and the greatest of Walsingham’s new band of spies. His exploits against the forces of Philip of Spain have made him a national hero, lauded from Carlisle to Kent. Yet his associates can barely disguise their incredulity – what is the point of a spy whose face and name is known across Europe?

But Swyfte’s public image is a carefully-crafted fa├žade to give the people of England something to believe in, and to allow them to sleep peacefully at night. It deflects attention from his real work – and the true reason why Walsingham’s spy network was established.

A Cold War seethes, and England remains under a state of threat. The forces of Faerie have been preying on humanity for millennia. Responsible for our myths and legends, of gods and fairies, dragons, griffins, devils, imps and every other supernatural menace that has haunted our dreams, this power in the darkness has seen humans as playthings to be tormented, hunted or eradicated.

But now England is fighting back!

Robot Astronomy Talk Show

Via SFSignal: NASA's Irrelevant Astronomy. The episode "Gravity and the Great Attractor" features George Takei and has cameos from Ed Wasser and Mark Hamill. And is way better than I was expecting:


Blood of Ambrose: "I could barely put it down."

The King of the Nerds is very enthusiastic about James Enge's debut Blood of Ambrose.He starts skeptical and warms to the book:
It isn’t without it’s problems but they pale in comparison to the amount of pure fun that this novel provided... By the time I got to the [huge spoiler omitted] I could barely put it down.
He observes that:
Enge displays a remarkable talent for banter amongst his characters...
And also, astutely:
Enge also seems to cherry pick from various other genres. Most frequently that genre is horror (or at least "dark fantasy").
And he concludes that:
Blood of Ambrose has a very sword and sorcery feel. It is a type of style and story that is almost completely at odds with a lot of what we’re seeing on the fantasy market today. It is a type of fantasy story that Pyr seems to be carving out a niche for and to that I say 'Thank You! ...[Blood of Ambrose] was truly fantastic... It’s old school and new school, dark without ever being oppressive and yet somehow managed to keep an almost constant smile on my face. It’s one of those novel that leaves you a bit crestfallen that it’s over, not because the ending was disappointing (it wasn’t!) but because you have to stop living in the world it crafted. The second book This Crooked Waylooks like it’ll be out in October and I for one can’t wait to read more.
Meanwhile, Blue Tyson thinks there's a very definite Steven Brust vibe to James Enge, as well as a Fritz Leiber tone. I certainly agree about the Leiber, but I've never read Brust so I can't say. That being said, a friend of mine who gifted me some Brust recently (that I do plan on reading, promise) is wild about Enge, so maybe he's on to something. Blue Tyson also has some very nice things to say:
Blood Of Ambrose, where to begin? It is very rare I get extremely interested in a novel these days significantly ahead of its arrival, at least if the names involved don't start with Egan, Morgan, or Reynolds. However, this was one of those rare volumes.
And he picked up on an element to the character, perhaps not an intentional one, that I recognized (and loved) as well:
...a character comparison that could be made with Morlock is actually that of Doctor Who, not something I'd do often for a literary character. However, plenty of books of the former. Here you do have an extremely long-lived individual, alien, dispassionate and given to thinking his way out of trouble, where possible, helped by a large array of arcane engineering knowledge. His relationship with his sister is also rather reminiscent of the fond bickering between the Doctor and Romana. He's also prone to collecting proteges and companions. The 21st century vintage doctor has been known to get a bit gung-ho with a sword, too. Morlock, however, is not given to huge rantypants oratorically declamatory scenery-chewing. Nor of making goo-goo eyes at girls younger than his underpants, come to that, given his ex-wife. There's no K-9, but Morlock has one of the coolest pets as such that I have ever come across.
He praises, "one of the best starts to a book I have seen in a long time," and concludes:
A novel that is inventive and refreshingly different, especially so if you haven't seen any of the Morlock stories before, and I'll read it again. At least I'd be surprised if you've read a book before about a drunken, ex-hero, divorced son of Merlin, foster-dwarf who is a magical artificer with a dwarven sidekick, strange pets, a backpack, and a hunchback, among other things.
Plus I'd be happy to order the second book in advance.
Thanks, guys. So glad you both liked the book so much!


For Your Viewing Pleasure: Prince of Storms by Kay Kenyon

Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere
Design by Jacqueline Cooke
The fourth, and final, volume in Kay Kenyon's magnificent The Entire and the Rose series, coming January 2010. Plenty of time to catch up on what SFRevu hails as, "the most ambitious epic science fiction series of the current decade. "

Heliotrope # 5: Michael Moorcock Tribute

Issue # 5 of Helioptrope is out. It's available online and as a downloadable PDF, and is entirely devoted to the genius of Michael Moorcock. It opens with Neil Gaiman's "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock," and then a piece from Yours Truly, "Michael Moorcock: Behold the Man," wherein I talk about Mike's collosal influence on sf&f, "serious" literature, rock and roll, RPG and computer gaming, and quantum physics. Fortunately, Bryan Talbot is onhand to address my one serious omission. He discusses Mike's colosal influence on comic books in "The Moorcock Effect." Chris Roberson talks about his personal interactions with Mike the person in "Moorcock the Author, Mike the Man." Also included are appreciates by Paul S Kemp, Hal Duncan, and Catherynne M. Valente, and Rhys Hughes. There's a lot of Mike love in the issue, but that's something there can never be enough of.


Matthew Sturges in the Wild

Matthew Sturges, signing Midwinteras well as his many famous graphic novels, at the Barnes and Noble in Round Rock, Texas. Matt reported via Twitter, "I have been totally upstaged by a middle school choir singing show tunes. I told them spinal tap first, puppet show LAST!"


Elric - The Heavy Metal Years

For all you sword and sorcery fans, here's some rare footage of fantasy great Michael Moorcock joining space cadets Hawkwind to intone his Elric poem/lyrics on stage.

Moorcock was a part of Hawkwind for several years, and the band's Chronicle of the Black Sword album was heavily influenced by his work. Cherry Red records recently secured the rights to release all of Hawkwind's material, which had been unavailable for many years. More details at the Cherry Red site.

And, of course, if you delve into the Pyr catalogue, you will also find a couple of Mike's current works...


Enge, Sturges, Robson, Lloyd and Me

There's a fantastic interview with Blood of Ambroseauthor James Enge over on SFScope. Conducted by Sara M. Harvey, and well-worth reading, here's a taste:
The genesis of Morlock was, I think, frustration with two of my favorite writers, Tolkien and H.G. Wells. I was annoyed that Tolkien so obviously favored elves over dwarves, and that Wells did the same with Eloi over Morlocks. Morlocks did stuff—they worked and learned and thought and created. They seemed to me more authentically human than the empty, shiny Eloi. So what if they lived underground and weren't so pretty? The cannibalism is a little harder to stomach, as it were—but I'm sure that's exactly why Wells put it in. That's his thumb on the scale, trying to tilt our judgment of his characters.
Then over at The Agony Column, Rick Kleffel and I talk about Steampunk, Victoriana and Elizabethan SF, with a bit about Chris Roberson, George Mann, and old series Doctor Who. Here's a direct link.

Meanwhile in response to my accidentally traumatizing her with an offhand statement, Justina Robson asks What is Fantasy About? Please go join in the discussion. I sense brilliance on the verge of conception.

Then Graeme's Fantasy Book Review gives an 8 out of 10 to Matthew Sturges' Midwinter.They say:
...a book that any fantasy fan will get a lot out of. ...there is no denying the sense of urgency that leaps out off the page and drives the story along [at] a very fast pace. The constant plotting and scheming underneath the surface adds to this urgency as well as giving the reader the best possible reason to keep reading. There are loads of questions that all need answering and it’s all credit to Sturges that these are the kind of questions where you care enough about the answers to invest more time in reading the book. You also cannot deny the dangers that our travellers must face on their journey and these make for some great moments where anything could happen and spectacle is the order of the day!
Hey, I'd be rushing out to get that now if I hadn't read it already. But if you need more convincing, Jessica Strider at Sci-Fan Letter interviews Matthew Sturges, about the book and the craft of writing in general.
I was doing a presentation about writing comic books for a group of fourth-graders, since I'm most known as a comic book writer. Most of the questions were what you'd expect from nine-year-olds: Who'd win in a fight between the Hulk and Superman, that kind of stuff. Just as the questions were dying down, a kid in the back raised his hand and asked, "How much do you make?" I paused for a second and said, "I do okay, I guess." He wasn't satisfied, "Can you give me a dollar amount?" "That's an inappropriate question," said the teacher, embarassed. "Why?" said the kid. "How can I tell if I want to do that job if I don't know what it pays?"
Meanwhile, The King of the Nerds (what a title!) has some very positive thoughts about Tom Lloyd's The Twilight Herald: heck of a wild ride, with action, excitement, danger, violence and epic confrontations occurring left and right... I’m not certain I would say The Twilight Herald is an improvement over The Stormcallerbut Lloyd at the least reveals an impressive level of verstatility in terms of style between the two novels. Furthermore he maintains an ability to include a subtle over-arching theme of revenge across the entirety of the novel that is never overwrought or glaring. Lloyd is keeping me guessing with the series and, criticisms asside, that is something I can definatley appreciate.
And that's enough news for one morning, right?

Update: Well, no, because there's a terrific interview with Tom Lloyd that is up at Fantasy Book News & Reviews.


Blood of Ambrose: a Cross Between Robert E. Howard, Joe Abercombie, Monty Python, HP Lovecraft, and Sam Raimi

Robert Thompson, of Fantasy Book Critic, on James Enge's Blood of Ambrose. This is the second comparison to Joe Abercrombie in as many reviews, which is heartening to me, as it's a similarity that I found very strong when I was initially reading the manuscript and thinking about acquiring it for Pyr.
"Combining elements of sword & sorcery, pulp fiction, the Arthurian legend, humor and horror, James Enges’ debut novel, Blood of Ambrose, is like a cross between Robert E. Howard, Joe Abercombie, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead sprinkled in... For fantasy lovers, there are plenty of familiar elements... but because of the humor, the cynicism, the trickery and the horror elements, the familiar quickly becomes unfamiliar. ...skillfully written and a very fun, imaginative and unique reading experience. In short, I had a blast with Blood of Ambrose and can’t wait for more..."


For Your Viewing Pleasure: This Crooked Way

This Crooked Way© James Enge
Cover Illustration © Dominic Harman
Design by Jacqueline Cooke

Coming in October.
Plenty of time to finish Blood of Ambrose.

2009 Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist

Not long now until the winner of this year's Arthur C Clarke Award (the UK's premier SF gong, as if you didn't know) is announced. It so happens that I've reviewed all six of the titles in this year's shortlist and weighed them against one another. [And they are: Song of Time, Ian R. MacLeod - PS Publishing; The Quiet War, Paul McAuley – Gollancz; House of Suns, Alastair Reynolds – Gollancz; Anathem,Neal Stephenson – Atlantic; The Margarets, Sheri S. Tepper – Gollancz; Martin Martin’s on the Other Side, Mark Wernham – Jonathan Cape]. My conclusion? The best of the bunch, by a clear margin, is Paul McAuley's The Quiet War. This doesn't mean it's necessarily going to win, and actually I don't have a good record of predicting the Clarkes. But it does mean it's a very very good piece of writing. For those of you Stateside who haven't had the chance to buy it yet, I'd say Pyr's edition can hardly come soon enough.

[PS: I'm not attending this year's UK Eastercon, but my insider information is that the annual 'Not The Clarkes' panel, which discusses the shortlist, also ended up plumping for McAuley's novel.]


Podcast: James Enge talks with Jon Armstrong

Jon Armstrong has uploaded the latest podcast in his marvelous show, if you're just joining us. This one is an interview with Blood of Ambroseauthor, James Enge. Jon says, "James and I talked about his pseudonym, sci-fi and fantasy, writing, unicorns, and talking squids." There is a direct link here, and the podcast is available via iTunes.

“James Enge writes with great intelligence and wit. His stories take twisty paths to unexpected places you absolutely want to go. This isn't the same old thing; this is delightful fantasy written for smart readers.” —Greg Keyes, New York Times bestselling author of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series

Author Event: Matt Sturges Sigining @ B&N

Matthew Sturges, author of the fantasy novel Midwinter, will be signing at the Barnes and Noble in Round Rock, on Saturday April 18, 2009 at 2:00 PM.

The store is located at La Frontera Village, 2701 Parker Road Bldg A Suite 700, Round Rock, TX 78681, telephone number 512-600-0088. Here's a link to the event on the B&N website.

"Known for his talents as a writer of comic book series including House of Mystery and the Eisner Award-nominated Jack of Fables, Sturges turns his storytelling mastery to epic fantasy. With an enigmatic hero and a supporting cast of colorful and varied personalities, his latest work breathes new life into a genre too often stunted by stereotypical portrayals of good and bad creatures of the faerie realms. Joining Neil Gaiman in making the crossover from comics to prose fiction, Sturges represents a strong, new voice in fantasy." —Library Journal Starred review


AGE OF MISRULE: BOOK 1 / Collectors' Item!

Well, there’s good news, and then there's even better news for fantasy lovers and book collectors everywhere. First, the most exciting news -- the AGE OF MISRULE is finally here in the US. Mark Chadbourn’s AGE OF MISRULE: BOOK ONE / WORLD’S END is back from the printer and it looks gorgeous. This is the stateside debut of Chadbourn’s long-awaited MISRULE novels, and it’s a stunning, epic read. The book will be available by May.

Here's the even better news for all first-edition book collectors — you’ll definitely want to grab your copy of this one right away. Why? According to word from Pyr this week, the printer forgot to place the Pyr logo on the spine of the book. Not the end of the world since Pyr's logo is on the back and inside, and this error will be corrected for the second printing of the book. In the meantime, this is the kind of thing that collectors and Ebayists live for. According to Pyr, orders were already fast and furious for AGE OF MISRULE before this happened. So, go get 'em before they're all gone, book collectors — they won't last long before they end up on Ebay. :)

They're Coming! Get Ready for the Robo Species!

Via Pink Tentacle: This child robot is programmed to recognize facial expressions and learn like a human infant. "Within two years, the researchers hope the robot will gain the intelligence of a two-year-old child and the ability to speak in basic sentences. In the coming decades, the researchers expect to develop a 'robo species' that has learning abilities somewhere between those of humans and chimps."


Kay Kenyon - Writing the Most Ambitious Epic

From SFRevu:
Kay Kenyon's epic series, The Entire and the Rose, grows stronger with each new volume. This may well be the most ambitious epic science fiction series of the current decade. While clearly science fiction, the atmosphere and feel of the series has many of the qualities of fantasy and can be enjoyed by readers of that genre who do not like much science fiction.... If you are not already reading this series and you are at all interested in current science fiction, you really should be. Start with the first book, Bright of the Sky. (Ignore the way it seems to jump in the middle as if there was an earlier volume, Kenyon chose to put much of the early history in as flashbacks and information revealed to an amnesiac hero.) There is one book left of this four-book series, Prince of Stormswhich will come out January 2010. I am really looking forward to seeing how Kenyon is able to resolve everything. Very highly recommended.


For Your Viewing Pleasure: The Grave Thief

Cover Illustration © Todd Lockwood
Design by Grace M. Conti-Zilsberger

A Conversation with James Enge has just uploaded my conversation with James Enge, author of the just-released Swords & Sorcery novel, Blood of Ambrose.I'm fascinated by Enge's world building, and his views on fantasy fiction in general. Check out the whole post, but here's a taste:
Morlock, as suits his ornery nature, was born out of annoyance. I’d just been rereading Wells’ The Time Machine and I was annoyed because I thought (and still think) that Wells stacked the deck unfairly against the Morlocks. Somehow this merged with a longstanding grievance I have against Tolkien: JRRT worked too hard to make elves the good guys, often at the expense of dwarves. And—because I was reading a lot of Arthurian source material at the time—I realized that “Morlock” looked like a lot of names in Arthurian legend: Morgan, Morgause, Morholt, Mordred. And so this character named Morlock Ambrosius was born, who was supposed to be to Merlin something like what Mordred was to Arthur.


For Your Viewing Pleasure: Mark Chadbourn's Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour© Mark Chadbourn
Cover Illustration © John Picacio
Design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht

The eternal conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with all the might of angels. On the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race. Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi have joined forces with Tom, a hero from the mists of time, to wage a guerrilla war against the iron rule of the gods. But they didn't count on things going from bad to worse ...this is the stunning continuation of a powerful fantasy saga by one of Britain's most acclaimed young writers.