The Barrow

7/30/10

wibbly wobbly timey wimey

Art by Jon Sullivan
"Imagine the best time travel story you’ve ever read crossed with the greatest B-movie ever filmed crossed with one of the most intelligently crafted, richly detailed alternate histories ever composed crossed with any number of oddball delights and shrewd political and social satire to boot, and you might have some idea of how ingenious this novel is..." RobWillReview on Mark Hodder's Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack.

7/27/10

Guardian Ghosts

The Guardian on George Mann's Ghosts of Manhattan: "a glorious mash-up of alternate history, science fiction, supernatural horror and detective thriller, peopled by real characters who are in no sense subservient to the plot. Mann orchestrates the whole with superb control and superior storytelling panache."

7/26/10

Free on Kindle: Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky

Free on Kindle
Kay Kenyon's brilliant sci-fantasy epic quartet, The Entire and the Rose, is now available in its entirety in hardcover, trade paperback, and Kindle-format ebook. And to celebrate, the first book in the series, Bright of the Sky, is now FREE on Kindle.

If a price of zero point zero weren't enough for you to check it out, here are some additional compelling reasons:

“[A] splendid fantasy quest as compelling as anything by Stephen R. Donaldson, Philip José Farmer or, yes, J.R.R. Tolkien. ...you can actually feel the grasses and smell the smoke from the trains and experience great wonder in the cities of this impossible yet beautiful universe.” - Washington Post Book World

"[Bright of the Sky] knocked my socks off with its brilliant evocation of a quest through a parallel universe that has a strange river running through it. Unique in conception, like Larry Niven's Ringworld, this is the beginning to what should be an amazing SF-Fantasy series.”
- Locus Online, Best of 2007

“[A] star-maker, a magnificent book that should establish its author’s reputation as among the very best in the field today. Deservedly so, because it’s that good...a classic piece of world-making....here is another of those grand worlds whose mere idea invites us in to share in the wonder. Bright of the Sky enchants on the scale of your first encounter with the world inside of Rama, or the immense history behind the deserts of Dune, or the unbridled audacity of Riverworld. It's an enormous stage demanding a grand story and, so far, Kenyon is telling it with style and substance. The characters are as solid as the world they live in, and Kenyon's prose sweeps you up and never lets go. On its own, [it] could very well be the book of the year. If the rest of the series measures up, it will be one for the ages.” -SF Site

“Reminiscent of the groundbreaking novels of Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, and Dan Simmons, her latest volume belongs in most libraries.” -Library Journal

“With a rich and vivid setting, peopled with believable and sympathetic characters and fascinating aliens, Kay Kenyon has launched an impressive saga with Bright of the Sky.”
-SFFWorld

Bright Of The Sky effortlessly blends science fiction concepts and world-building with fantasy story telling to create a unique and intriguing whole....Kay Kenyon has created a standout novel....I'm looking forward to the rest of series. 4 out of 5 stars.” -SFSignal.com

“A brilliant SF setting that rivals Larry Niven's Ringworld and Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series for sheer invention, adventure, complexity, and a sense of wonder.” - Omnivoracious

“Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky is her richest and most ambitious novel yet — fascinating, and best of all, there promises to be more to come.” – Greg Bear, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Quantico and Darwin’s Radio

Kay Kenyon Reading


Kay Kenyon will be reading from her latest book, Prince of Storms, at Seattle's University Bookstore on Wednesday, August 4th, from 7 to 8pm.

Prince of Storms concludes Kay Kenyon's epic quartet, The Entire and The Rose. All four books are now available in trade paperback. It makes a lovely set!

"One of the most captivating multi-universe, multi-cultural settings in science fiction history." -Greg L. Johnson, SF Site

7/21/10

"Survival of the Fiction" -- the third-place winner from our "Pyr and Dragons Adventure" contest


L. Lambert Lawson of Escondido, California wrote the third-place essay in our "Pyr and Dragons Adventure" fifth anniversary contest. Lawson—the founder and editor-in-chief of Kazka Press, an online magazine devoted to fantasy fiction—will receive five complimentary books of his choice from the Pyr catalog as well as a commemorative Pyr fifth-anniversary keepsake.

We are pleased to post his contribution:

Survival of the Fiction

by

L. Lambert Lawson

From 2005-2007, I, along with 115 other Americans, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. We fanned out across that former Soviet republic, peopling formerly irradiated villages and sleepy, vodka-distilling and -swilling towns to do a job: teach English. However, we all realized the more important job: survival. On my end, survival hinged, in both profound and peculiar ways, on access to fantasy literature, a truth at the heart of this essay.

Under a cerulean sky, a man with whom I shared a no common language, aside from the ability to waggle limbs to communicate some great need, grasped me by the shoulder and marched me into a copse of birch. He thrust a spade into my hands and motioned to the shaded earth. Dig. A large man, clutching a sharpened trowel of his own, and a colleague of my host mother, he commanded me with his stature. I saw myself drop my knees and commence digging—my perspective omniscient third-person. Was I being hazed? Could a full-grown man dig his own grave, in partial view of loved ones, with a tool meant for divesting a victory garden of its weeds? I thought of Roland Deschain, of Tyrion Lannister and Mike Havel; channeled their courage in the face of fear; and broke apart the loose dirt. Four minutes in, this man waved his hands at me.

Stop.

He then transformed his fists into claws and squirreled at the air as if rescuing a harvest of acorns from an invisible tree. Dig with your hands.

My mind passed from story to story, from Dragonlance to Mid-World to Middle Earth, and remembered the heroes of those landscapes. Life faced none of them as a series of normal events. Life was raw and churning; moving forward did not come cheap: one had to cross the Rubicon into territory heretofore uncharted. The best readers follow no maps; the best writers include them as frontispieces at the insistence of publishers who “know what the market wants.” Thus, I plunged forth, when my unfortified self might have buckled from uncertainty and isolation, and dug my fingers into the dark earth. A few inches down, I found my treasure: a bottle of samahon, Ukraine’s most potent homemade vodka, and a story that would splash from that center and onto all the new shores I encounter. Fantasy literature provided me mettle when I might otherwise have mewed. Thus, it remains core to me.

Rolling across that hallowed Ukrainian ground, from Kyiv to Kharkiv to L’viv, the wandering cultural capital of Carpathians, one’s constant travel companion is a novel. Train cars are crowded, and passengers never tire of ogling the foreigner. A book is defense. The denser, the better. I was never without a sprawling epic or two on any trip I made; I often reread a tattered volume from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire juggernaut. Fantasy literature, like no other genre, publishes books like bricks, tomes like tools. In my two years, the volume A Game of Thrones became a truncheon to ward off a drunk, a block to force windows open in sweltering coupe cabins, and a perfect-bound roll of toilet paper. Using the words of Ned Stark to wipe my ass is neither embarrassing nor an affront to Martin and his Westeros, a work like The Bible to me. Instead, I view it as a sacred link in my tale – I who live more for story than for etiquette. Who else would I clutch in my fist, hovering anus down over a Turkish toilet in a bathroom bereft of paper products but Martin? Who else could cleanse me; save me from developing a rash on my impending 17-hour, cross-country train ride; and still provide enough leaves for reading on my journey home? Without fantasy literature, I would’ve been accosted by drunks, boiled alive in coupes, and squirming in shit for ¾ of a day; thus, it remains savior to me.

During Ukrainian winters, evening begins at 3:00 PM. The dark descends, and one has two choices: frolic in the night and become a statistic or become intimate with every livable space in one’s apartment. Of those Peace Corps Volunteers who terminated their services early, the crux of that decision often stemmed from an incident in the nighttime. Muggings. Brawls. A rape. Night, in large doses, was not for survivors. Therefore, Peace Corps had a large, unofficial, and always mobile library of fantasy (and other) fiction. There’s only so much Scrabble to play or tea to host or Lost to watch. Eventually, into everyone’s hands a book must fall.

From October 2005 to November 2007, I read 107 books – not the most in my group but still a veritable survey of modern fantasy fiction. Soaking up as much of the history, environment, and people of L’viv as I could in daylight hours, I slid into Gilead and Chiba City after dusk. The hundreds of thousands of words I read, and the worlds they imagined, kept me safe during nights when neo-Nazis paraded below my balcony and broke windows on my boulevard. Tome after tome secured me when other Volunteers were robbed, abused, and harassed in dark corners and dimly-lit squares. Enticed by the possibility of experience and story, Aragon’s strength or Raistlin’s confidence did not cloud my instinct for survival. In a small way, fantasy literature helped me survive Ukraine.

My students, trudging to school through two foot snowdrifts, wanted nothing more than the principal to announce karantin. Under quarantine, the dilapidated school building would be shuttered for two weeks at a minimum. Two weeks for my students to play; two weeks for me to figure out what the hell to do with myself. Vacation in Ukraine is not like vacation in the U.S. – especially during a blizzard of biblical proportions. Public transportation is the rule, and, despite facing winter in some form every year, the Ukrainian bus and train system barely survives each snowy season it faces. Infrastructure is not one of Ukraine’s strengths. Thus, for nearly two weeks, I was housebound. Unfortunately, I had few books at that juncture, no hope of going out to get any (in English), and only a fledgling ability to read at length in Ukrainian. I did, however, have a laptop. So, in February of 2006, The Aria of Davin Ford was born, my as-yet-published contribution to the canon of fantasy literature. Yet, the power of the work was not in its publishing potential; it was in its power to hold me in thrall as my fingers treated my keyboard like an amped up Whack-a-Mole. Characters were born; a world was crafted. Two weeks turned into three years, and I cashed in on a long-ago dream – write a novel – and got sent off on a new path: publish it.

Last, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer is a lonely proposition. Not everyone was lucky enough to serve with their life partners as I was, but couples were not as self-sustaining as everyone surmised. Couples needed friends too. And friends came together, intellectually and physically, around shared interests. People bonded over the nuances radiating out between various brands of Ukrainian vodka or flavors of dried bread chips, but one thread that tied numerous volunteers together was a bibliophilic streak, especially a love of –wait for it –fantasy literature. Friends drew together over The Drawing of the Three; swooned over rare copies of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows; and competed to find the most banal, inadvertently hilarious books (sorry James Herbert, but Once sucked very, very badly.)

Lonely stretches of time grew less isolating with text messages flying across the country faster than a golden snitch, commiserating over the latest plot twist in a shared novel (A Clash of Kings anyone?) delving into a familiar story wrought new (The Historian), and chewing through the haunch and marrow of a dense treasure (Blood Meridian). And we were made better because of those connections. Fantasy literature bridged the chasm of solitude between good women and men serving their country. Thus, fantasy literature holds my gratitude.

Fantasy fiction served me as I served the United States of America. It kept me whole, kept me sane, and kept me safe. There are other, more prominent actors on that stage (my wife chief among them), but words linked into sentences that rolled into pages of paragraphs got us through and, often, held us up. Consider this a thank you, fantasy literature, and a wholesale toast, with Ukrainian samahon, to your, as well as our, continued survival.

James Enge: a considerable amount of imagination

Cover art by Dominic Harman

From Dominic Cilli's review of James Enge's This Crooked Way at SF Site, which focuses on the episodic nature of the novel:

"James Enge has shown a considerable amount of imagination in his writing of This Crooked Way. His decision to structure the book using this uncommon method of narration that I described above is certainly not anything groundbreaking for an author, but it was refreshing and impressive. Not only does it work exceedingly well as a vehicle to tell Enge's story, but it shows, that at a very early stage in his career Enge isn't afraid to take a risk. It appears that Enge isn't going to be just another fantasy author churning out volume after volume of rote fantasy written in the same sing-song style he knows he can be successful with. He is willing to take a chance and grow as an author and he deserves to be praised for it.  ....Furthermore, This Crooked Way has more than enough in it to keep readers entertained throughout. All the stories contained within the novel have something to keep readers intrigued and it looks like James Enge is creating a very dark and entertaining universe in which to write his Ambrose novels. His magic system contains elements of science, logic and manufacturing all combined together and gives This Crooked Way some very intriguing and believable supernatural aspects. ...a smart and entertaining read. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to recommend This Crooked Way to my friends and James Enge is certainly an author I would keep my eye on in the future"

7/20/10

Lou Anders Interview: The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

I was honored to be one of the people quoted in Philip Athans' The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!. The book has an introduction and original story by R.A. Salvatore, and features quotes from a number of SFF luminaries, including Kevin J. Anderson, Terry Brooks, Paul Park, our own Mike Resnick, and others.

Today, author Philip Athans takes some of the unused material from our conversation and spins it into an interview over on his blog, The Fantasy Author's Handbook.

I hope you'll read the full interview, but here is a sample:
Athans: What is the one novel every aspiring fantasy author has to read?

Anders: It isn’t The Lord of the Rings. I can’t tell you how many people pitch me with their brilliant fantasy concept, and when I grill them on who they read, it’s Tolkien and no one else or since. If you want to sell fantasy in today’s market, then you need to have read George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, David Anthony Durham, Brent Weeks. Look at what’s selling now. Read what’s selling now.
 Also: Man, that's an old picture!

7/19/10

'Servants of the Secret Fire' -- the second-place essay in the 'Pyr and Dragons Adventure' contest


Robert Rhodes, a published writer from Spartanburg, South Carolina, wrote the Second-place essay in the Pyr and Dragons Adventure contest.

Currently, Rhodes is writing the '25 Heroes in 2010' series at FantasyLiterature.com.

Rhodes will receive a complete set of Pyr books as published through June 1, 2010 and a commemorative Pyr fifth-anniversary keepsake which is being produced for Dragon*Con.

Please enjoy "Servants of the Secret Fire" by Robert Rhodes:

Servants of the Secret Fire
Why Fantasy and Science Fiction Matter
by Robert Rhodes

The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. …
"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


When I was seven years old, my grandparents gave me a Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, the basic edition with an Erol Otus cover on which a spear-wielding fighter in purple armor and a fireball-hurling magic-user, one leg outthrust from her scarlet robes, confront a green dragon on the edge of a subterranean lake. The box contained the rule book, The Keep on the Borderlands adventure module, and six polyhedral dice the color—depending on your light source and mood—of either wet sandstone or cat vomit. It was the most influential gift of my life.

In concert with the original Star Wars trilogy and a variety of superhero comic books, D&D kindled in me an abiding love of heroism and an enchantment with other worlds. Years later, having assumed the responsibilities of husband, father and citizen, I still count fantasy and science fiction ("speculative fiction" or "F&SF") as my go-to genres in literature and film. Well-executed F&SF can create excitement, escapism, and pathos as effectively as any other genre; and in the past nine years, during which I've spent thousands of hours prosecuting criminals and protecting abused children, this quality of F&SF has helped shield me from burnout. But in this era, as we struggle with the transition from a natural order minimally impacted by human activity to one markedly transformed, F&SF serve us in several other ways.

First, F&SF recapture who we were. Time-travel tales and historical fantasies remind those of us in industrialized regions that, before we soared above clouds and sped along graded roads in metal capsules, we ran and rode horses and endured the seas' inexorable winds and waves. Instead of staring into the magic mirrors of our televisions and computers each night, we gathered with our communities to tell stories and make music in taverns or courts, or around bonfires beneath the stars. Nor did we dismiss the stars as distant balls of flaming gas; instead we scrutinized them as entities or harbingers whose arcs could alter the fates of all who walked the mysterious, motionless earth.

While stories set in pre-industrial times reveal that our bond with the natural world was often more visceral and intense, they also remind us of the difficulties inherent in living without refrigeration, long-distance communication, anesthesia—to say nothing of increased rights and protections for many women, children, and minorities. The reader of such a story will inevitably compare the characteristics of its societies with those of his own and form his own opinions as to which are desirable and undesirable.

Similarly, F&SF contemplate who we will be. Science fiction, in particular, operates as the shadow that precedes the imprint of technology's cutting edge upon reality. The most thoughtful stories foresee the practical and ethical issues inherent in developments such as cloning, prenatal genetic modification, artificial intelligence, and cybernetic implants—in addition to more epic possibilities, such as nuclear holocaust and alien contact. Through such imaginative consideration, we can more comprehensively debate which laws should govern technological developments, or whether certain technologies should be developed at all.

Realistic, non-speculative literature also can depict the past and future; however, F&SF evoke a sense of otherness. Through the imaginations of its authors, speculative fiction has emerged as the genre that most consistently introduces places and situations beyond the scope of our available experience. This is important not only for the sake of entertainment, but also for intellectual and emotional renewal. Although children may wonderfully imagine what exists in a nearby forest or beyond and beneath snow-crowned mountains, adults risk the paralysis of bored cynicism when they realize that the habitable world has been exhaustively mapped and that no relationship or community is flawless. The spirit of manifest destiny, the romantic dream that pristine lands await us on the horizon, is dead. F&SF reassure us, though, that we aren't helplessly trapped and, on the contrary, the horizons of the mind are infinite.

In the same way, F&SF preserve the heroic tradition. (This does not diminish the artistry or importance of "dark" works that explore our ambiguities, contradictions and failures. Antiheroes and villains can still, after all, be the focal points of truths and consequences.) Unlike most modern fiction, F&SF, particularly F&SF for young readers, often transport us into realms where clearly identified and tangible evils threaten all goodness, beauty, and freedom. But if an evil is known and tangible, it is also vulnerable to a protagonist's will and courage. To those disheartened by the pace of desired change, whether adults frustrated by bureaucracy or youths by the rules of their homes and schools, the shining thrust of a sword—Éowyn smiting the Witch-King—is a glorious release. Hope endures in the blackest pit; darkness will never extinguish our light. Through the repetition of these truths in story, the eternal flame of heroism is passed from one generation to the next.

In "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant," a story by award-winning author Jeffrey Ford, the writer Ashmolean asks, "What good is the illusion of fiction if it cannot show us a way to become the people we need to be?". This concern, as evidenced by the previous observations, is almost universal in F&SF, no less than in heroic literature of the past: The Iliad, Beowulf, The Three Musketeers, To Kill a Mockingbird. In their finest hours, F&SF reveal who we are and should be in our finest hours. The authors and readers of F&SF are students of the past, architects of the future, dreamers of the other. They are torchbearers of heroism, and because of these vocations, they have both the willingness to be inspired and the vision to inspire. As President John F. Kennedy said, "The problems of the world cannot be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were."

It hardly matters, then, whether devotees of F&SF possess the martial skill or charisma of Aragorn, Ellen Ripley, or William Adama. When we create and share in others' inspiring creations, we perpetuate the energy unleashed at the dawn of time. We become servants of the Secret Fire, with the power to bring truth and hope into the dark places around us. We remember that words and stories, even of those who are distant or dead, contain the power to unite and encourage, heal and transform.

Our words, and the stories of our lives, can resonate with this power. For each of us, there is a bridge between who we are and who we should be, and we do not have forever to cross it. We need not cross it alone, however, but with our brethren and the Secret Fire, the flame that still burns in fantasy and science fiction, to guide us.

Through the shadows of our journey, the wizard's voice spurs us on: "Fly, you fools!"

7/18/10

Mike Resnick on the Functional Nerds

Mike Resnick guests on the latest episode of The Functional Nerds podcast. Hosts Patrick Hester and John Anealio's podcast is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and Resnick is always a riot to listen to with his funny, eye-opening, and informative stories of a life in the publishing business. Highly highly recommended. SF Signal's John DeNardo guests as well.

7/16/10

Grand-prize-winning essay by Lisa Iriarte


Pyr is proud to introduce the Grand-prize winner of the "Pyr and Dragons Adventure" fifth anniversary essay contest: Lisa Iriarte of Celebration, Florida. Lisa Iriarte teaches seventh-grade language arts and has recently written what she hopes will become her first published novel, Assassin’s Nightmare.

Iriarte will embark on a Pyr and Dragons Adventure that includes a round-trip flight to Atlanta, GA, for this year’s Dragon*Con; two nights’ hotel accommodation; and a Dragon*Con membership badge. While there, Iriarte will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Pyr Editorial Director Lou Anders and featuring special author guests Mike Resnick, Jon Sprunk, James Enge, and Sam Sykes.

Please enjoy her winning essay:

Five Ways Science Fiction and Fantasy Changed My Life

by

Lisa Iriarte

Part 1 -- The Lonely Child

At the age of three, pediatricians diagnosed me as asthmatic with severe allergies. At four, I contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized for nearly a month. My lungs, I am told, collapsed twice, and I almost died. From that point on, I was destined to have an unusual childhood of restrictions and physical limitations that would extend into my adult life. But exactly what I would do to mentally overcome the limits of my body would be shaped by several key events seemingly unimportant at the times of their occurrences.

Each year I would dread the coming of the cold. I lived in New Jersey, so this meant a period from October to March. I was forbidden to play outside if the temperature dropped below a certain level or if a trace of snow lay on the ground. Soon enough, I'd tire of toys and television. Then, in my third grade year, a teacher read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle to the class, and my imagination responded to my first exposure to science fiction.

My imaginary playmates took on all forms. I didn't create human children because I had little experience with them. As a child, I had few friends. Most social relationships develop on the playground, and except for September and late in the Spring, there were very few days when I was permitted to join the others in school outdoor play. When I did participate in their games, my asthma created breathing difficulties that limited my ability to run or skip rope. The other children saw me as aloof, and stand-offish. There was a great deal of name-calling, and references to my being "diseased." So, up in my room, alone, I would visit with invisible children from alien worlds.

Science fiction gave me friendships and worlds to explore. It changed the way I thought.

Part 2 -- Family Matters

In the same year as my first encounter with science fiction, my half-brother, John, came to visit. He lived with my father's first wife, and rarely stayed with us. To me, this brother that I almost never saw was something of a hero and idol. He's ten years older, smiling, playful, and protective. When he visited, I had a real live playmate, and he basked in my idolization. He, too, had an extensive imagination, pretending to make me disappear and performing what, to me, were incredible feats of magic. I simply adored him.

So, when he recommended we all see Star Wars, I begged and pleaded to go, despite the fact that this would be my first PG rated film. All I knew was that John had seen it, so I had to.

There is no adequate description for the awe and wonder a creative soul experiences when faced with this science fiction classic for the first time. This is especially true when one considers the effect of the "big screen" and the special effects technology of Lucasfilm Ltd. Star Wars was technically way ahead of its time, but with a story of good vs. evil that can be traced back to the beginnings of recorded history. I emerged from that darkened theater into a universe of new, creative possibilities.

And my half-brother and I had something we could really share, despite the gap in our ages.

For the rest of his visit, we played made-up Star Wars games. And when the spin-off novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster came out, we both read it and discussed it at length via letters and phone calls, postulating as to where the series would lead.

Science fiction brought us closer together than anything else ever had.

Part 3 -- Saving My Grades

A few years later, I discovered I could write down my imaginary scenarios and share them with others. There was, after all, plenty of time for it with my illnesses keeping me indoors. On top of the asthma and allergies, I'd contracted a blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. (Yes, that's the real name and not one of my science fiction creations.) Its effects are similar to hemophilia, although the causes are different. In a nutshell, if I bumped myself, I bruised horribly. If I cut myself, it didn't stop bleeding until I'd lost quite a bit of blood. Now I couldn't play at recess or gym, regardless of the weather.

I'd grown too old for invisible playmates, and real live children shunned me as if I had a plague. The medication I took gave me a bloated look, puffing out my skin--especially my cheeks--until I looked like a blow fish. The other students thought I was contagious, or at least pretended as much, refusing to touch pencils, lockers, or even desks and chairs I'd had contact with.

My stories, however, drew them in. At first, I wrote fan fiction based on Star Trek and Star Wars, even second-guessing George Lucas on several counts before the release of Return of the Jedi. Then, I grew braver, creating worlds and characters all my own. This became my way out of social obscurity. My teachers would take my stories and read them aloud to the rest of the class, and many of the students would tell me how much they enjoyed them.

This also proved to be a factor in improving my failing English grades. When teachers and new friends complained they could not read my poor handwriting or decipher my improper punctuation, I worked hard at learning the grammatical rules and how to type. When I secured my first A, I realized I actually liked English and even joined the Gifted and Talented group for that subject which introduced me to more new friends.

Science fiction helped me graduate high school third in my class and earned me a half-tuition scholarship to college for my English S.A.T. scores.

Part 4 -- Happily Ever Afters

Science fiction and fantasy are also responsible for bringing me and my husband together.

When I began my first job as an English teacher, I was still shy and withdrawn . . . that is, until I noticed the handsome young math teacher carrying an Anne McCaffrey novel to lunch every day. It was one of the Pern books, though I admit I don't remember which one. I'd read some of McCaffrey's science fiction. The Crystal Singer trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series. So, overcoming my wallflower tendencies, I struck up a conversation with Joe, the math instructor.

As it turns out, he was a lover of all things science fiction and fantasy. We traded novels and discussed them on our breaks. We went to a Star Trek convention (or two, or three). We went to Renaissance festivals in period costumes.

After the ultimate fantasy wedding--at Disney World in front of Cinderella's castle--we went on a Star Trek cruise for our honeymoon, rubbing elbows with George Takei and Armin Shimerman.

Science fiction and fantasy brought me the love of my life, and my relationship with my husband, Joe, has brought me so much more.

Part 5 -- The Next Generation and Career Changes

Lastly, science fiction and fantasy have played a huge role in my careers. As I said, I am an English teacher of seventh graders. This year, my administration asked me to teach reading to advanced and honors students and left it up to me to decide the genres of study. How could I pass up such a fabulous opportunity to share my interests with eager young minds?

I selected a wide range of fantasy and science fiction, beginning with the novel that started it all for me--A Wrinkle In Time, then proceeding to Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, Brian Jacques’s Redwall, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and finishing with the classics--Time Machine and War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. I even brought in Lucienne Diver, the fabulous author of the YA urban fantasy, Vamped, to share her wisdom and enthusiasm with my students.

In addition to encouraging a new generation of readers, I reached a few milestones on the road to my ultimate dream--becoming a published author of science fiction myself. In November of 2009, I signed with a literary agent. She will begin shopping my first novel, Assassin's Nightmare, in June.

Without fantasy and science fiction, I would be a very different person, and these were the five ways the genres changed my life.

Announcing the Winners of the ‘Pyr and Dragons Adventure’ Fifth Anniversary Essay Contest!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2010
Contact: Jill Maxick
800-853-7545 / jmaxick@prometheusbooks.com

Announcing the Winners of the ‘Pyr and Dragons Adventure’ Fifth Anniversary Essay Contest

Amherst, New York -- To celebrate its fifth anniversary, Pyr, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, sponsored the “Pyr and Dragons Adventure” essay contest, for which fans were invited to submit a short essay on the theme Five Reasons Why Science Fiction And Fantasy Is Important To You. The contest commemorated what is important to Pyr: creative and powerful writing; a passion for genre fiction; and 2010’s special number, five.

Pyr is proud to announce the Grand-prize Winner: Lisa Iriarte of Celebration, Florida. Lisa Iriarte teaches seventh-grade language arts and has recently written what she hopes will become her first published novel, Assassin’s Nightmare.

Iriarte will embark on a Pyr and Dragons Adventure that includes a round-trip flight to Atlanta, GA, for this year’s Dragon*Con; two nights’ hotel accommodation; and a Dragon*Con entry badge.

At Dragon*Con, Iriarte will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Pyr Editorial Director Lou Anders and featuring special author guests Mike Resnick, Jon Sprunk, James Enge, and Sam Sykes.

Iriarte’s winning essay will be posted to the Pyr-o-mania blog at http://pyrsf.blogspot.com.

Robert Rhodes, a published writer from Spartanburg, South Carolina, wrote the Second-place essay. Currently, Rhodes is writing the '25 Heroes in 2010' series at FantasyLiterature.com.

Rhodes will receive a complete set of Pyr books as published through June 1, 2010 and a commemorative Pyr fifth-anniversary keepsake which is being produced for Dragon*Con.

L. Lambert Lawson of Escondido, California wrote the Third-place essay. Lawson—the founder and editor-in-chief of Kazka Press, an online magazine devoted to fantasy fiction—will receive five complimentary books of his choice from the Pyr catalog to date as well as a commemorative Pyr fifth-anniversary keepsake.

A panel of nine readers, employees of Prometheus Books, reviewed all eligible entries. Their favorite fifteen essays were sent to Pyr Editorial Director Lou Anders without any identifying author information. Anders selected the three winners.

Prometheus Books—a provocative, progressive, and independent publisher of nonfiction since 1969—launched Pyr in March 2005 to complement its strength in popular science. In 2010, in addition to celebrating its fifth anniversary, Pyr will publish its hundredth title.

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7/15/10

For Your Viewing Pleasure: The Ragged Man (Full Cover)

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

Coming from Pyr in August

Lord Isak is dead; his armies and entire tribe in disarray. As the Farlan retreat and Kastan Styrax mourns his dead son, it is King Emin who takes the initiative while he still can. The secret, savage war he has devoted his life to nears its terrible conclusion as Ruhen positions himself as answer to the Land's problems. Before the conquering eye of the Menin turns in his direction Emin must take his chance and strike without mercy.

A showdown is coming and battle lines are drawn as blood is spilled across the Land. The specter of the Great War looms but this time the Gods are not marching to war. It will be men who decide the future now. But before victory, before survival, there must first be salvation—even if it must be sought in the darkest place imaginable.

With the tide turning against Emin and his allies the key to their survival may lie in the hands of a dead man.

Enge is Freaking Terrific!

Blood of AmbroseSwords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and SorcerySteve at Elitist Book Reviews has just posted a review of my Eos anthology, Swords & Dark Magic (co-edited with Jonathan Strahan). The Pyr editor in me is particularly pleased with his assessment of James Enge's "The Singing Spear":
One of the best stories in the collection. Enge is so absurdly underrated. His character Morlock Ambrosius is a man of legend. A sorcerer of unparalleled power. And, uh, a complete drunk. "The Singing Spear" is a tale about what Morlock does when his bartender is killed. Enge is freaking terrific. This story will make you want to read more of his stuff. We suggest starting with BLOOD OF AMBROSE.

Got Sprunk? Shadow's Son is Shining Bright

The positive reviews for Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Son keep pouring in.

Civilian Reader says, "This is a solid fantasy debut that grabs you from page one and refuses to let you go. I am eagerly awaiting the second instalment. To sum up, I shall not mince words: I really liked this novel, and had fun reading it; and I think most readers will, too. Highly recommended. For Fans of: Brent Weeks, Col Buchanan, James Enge, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Matthew Sturges."

Only the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy says, "Shadow's Son is a well-written book with some great characters and set in medieval territory with dark magic. What's not to love? The only real complaint I have is that it was only 278 pages...I really didn't want to stop reading. Luckily, this is the first in a trilogy...Jon is hard at work on the sequel due out next year. 4 out of 5 Stars."

Grasping for the Wind says, "I loved it, and am eagerly anticipating the sequel. Caim has the same appeal as Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale or Brent Weeks’s Kylar Stern. They are all assassins doing good deeds from the shadows, and if you liked either of those characters, than Caim will be a welcome addition to the canon. I look forward to many more excellent stories of the assassin Caim, the Shadow’s Son."

Falcata Times says, "A new author and one that picks up the gauntlet of the fantasy assassin from Brent Weeks... A great tale by this author and one that will definitely hit the spot for a number of readers who have yearned for the return to a darker killer in a similar vein as Gemmell’s Waylander. "

Rob Will Review says, "Shadow’s Son manages to be simultaneously spry, dark, and complex... The highest compliment I can pay Jon Sprunk and Shadow’s Son is that, while in large part I find its brevity to be one of its strong points–there aren’t many authors being published today who can do so much with such a small amount of paper and ink, without ever allowing the story or characters to feel rushed or cramped–I am incredibly eager to return to this world and to spend more time with these wonderful characters. At novel’s end, our hero is poised on the brink of discovery, and I for one can’t wait to take that journey with him. Here’s hoping it won’t be too far in the future."

Booklist says, "The intrigue, action scenes, and ever-more-revealing character insights are masterfully woven together in a book the reader won’t want to put down. ...Overall, a first-rate sword-and- sorcery tale, with intriguing characters, that moves at a quick pace."

LEC Book Reviews says, "It did just what I wanted it to do, entertain me... with its relatively short length and its fast pace, Shadow’s Son makes for the perfect read when you’re in search of a quick burst of fun-filled action. We must not forget that this is Mr. Sprunk’s debut and with it he has managed to make me excited for the other two books in this promising trilogy as well as anything else he might throw our way. My Rating: 4 out of 5"

Monsters and Critics says, "Brisk pacing combines with liberal swordplay, politics, dark plots and mischievous spirits to make for an entertaining if unoriginal action tale that promises good things to come."

Roland's Codex says, "Jon Sprunk's first novel is engaging and light read, and one that leaves you wanting more. ...I will definitely read the sequel, when it's out. The author has undeniable potential, and if he develops his world and gives it a few historical layers... this could turn out to be a truly great series."

Madhatter's Bookshelf and Book Review says, "Shadow's Son had me up late at night as nearly every chapter ended in climax after climax of tight action sequences to see how Caim will get out of the next scrape. Fans of Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson will certainly find plenty to like here, but in a much smaller package as it is less than 300 pages. I give Shadow's Son 7.5 out of 10 hats."

Fantasy Book Critics says, "Jon Sprunk shows that not all fantasy novels need to be doorstoppers to be good. Shadow's Son is easily one of my favorite books of 2010 and I look forward to seeing what Sprunk can add to this trilogy."

Elitist Book Reviews says, "This book IS action. ...The pacing, action, and characters are all well written, and really that is what the focus is on for this novel. If this is an indication of what Jon is going to be having published, we are excited. We'll read his stuff readily, every time. So should you."

Speculative Book Reviews says, "Sprunk shows you write a great debut novel and comes out swinging with a great story of love, death, and magic. If you are looking for a book dealing with assassins look no further than Shadow's Son. The character of Caim reminds me of Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy or David Gemmell, if he wrote about assassins. Jon Sprunk is now on my must read list. Great debut novel."

Neth Space says, "a fun, fast read in the fashion of dark fantasy that’s so popular these days and Sprunk wisely does not try to cram it fuller than needed. It stands well enough on its own for people to try out without fear of needing to read forthcoming sequels, but the ending leaves many questions unanswered and a sense of anticipation for the books to come. All in all it’s just the distraction I was looking for amid some of the heavier reading I’ve done of late, and book that I can see pleasing a lot of readers. 7.5/10"

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist says, "The traditional tropes are all present, but somehow it doesn't take too much away from the overall story. Thanks to Jon Sprunk's writing style, a fast-paced yet evocative narrative that keeps you turning those pages, even though the story is clichéd somehow you keep going. ..like a talented fusion cuisine chef, Sprunk manages to take all those beaten to death ingredients, mix them up, and come up with a compelling recipe. Mind you, Shadow's Son will not change your life. But if you are looking for an action-packed and entertaining fantasy read to bring along with you on vacation, then this just might be what the doctor ordered."

7/14/10

Robert Silverberg on “Are the days of the full-time novelist numbered?”

Star Of GypsiesScience Fiction Grandmaster Robert Silverberg (whose Star of Gypsies and Son of Man we reprinted), at the Black Gate blog:

"Now we are back to the same situation that obtained in the golden era of the Fifties — s-f is mainly a field for hobbyist writers, with just a few able to earn a living writing just the real stuff and nothing but. (It is different, of course, for those who write pseudo-Tolkien trilogies, vampire novels, zombie books, and other sorts of highly commercial fantasy.) For a while, in the late 70s and early 80s, the money flowed freely and all sorts of people set up in business as s-f writers full time. I remember Greg Bear, president of SFWA somewhere back in the mid-80s, warning the writers at the SFWA business session not to quit their day jobs, because the good times were just about over; and was he ever right!"

7/12/10

The Dervish House: If you only read one SF book this year….

Richard Morgan (The Steel Remains, Altered Carbon) has posted his thoughts on Ian McDonald's The Dervish House to his blog, in a piece entitled "If you only read one SF book this year….".

"….make sure it’s Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House...Ian McDonald is one of a very small and select number of writers whose work actually makes me jealous – I read him and catch myself thinking over and over goddamnit, I wish I’d written this!!! Well – turns out The Dervish House is no exception to this tendency. It’s too bloody good for comfort. ...The Dervish House takes the expansive cultural mosaic of River of Gods, multiplies it by the driving Latin beat and teetering sense of jeopardy in Brasyl, and gives you a novel that is his best yet by a whole new order of imaginative and sensuous magnitude. Look – I lived and worked in Istanbul for a year and a bit, I’ve written it, both overtly and covertly, into my fiction myself, and I’m telling you, Ian has captured the city in a way I’ve never seen so convincingly done in genre or – more importantly – by any non-Turkish author in the mainstream either. ...More than ever before, Ian McDonald has written a book about Now – and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just glad I’m not competing against it for awards this time around! Nice one, Ian – you talented f*ck"

The Ghost Arrives on the Kindle!

We've been getting a lot of emails and comments asking when George Mann's Ghosts of Manhattan will be released on the Kindle, so I know a lot of people are going to be excited to learn that it's here!

"Ghosts of Manhattan is a brilliant hybrid of superhero/vigilante tale, film noir, and 1920s decadence... It is an exceedingly dark character study of damaged characters attempting to make the world a better place than it has been for them. It is a portrait of a world just one step removed from our reality, a New York that never was but could have been. It is a thematic rumination on the nature of heroism, blessed with exquisite prose, twisty mystery (one revelation in particular almost made me want to start reading all over again, to note the earlier clues), genuinely thrilling suspense, and cracking violence--a beautifully crafted novel whose dark heart is counterbalanced with small moments of unexpected tenderness. And dirigibles." --RobWillReview.com

7/5/10

Upcoming Author Appearances (Updated)

Jon Sprunk, author of Shadow's Son, has the following upcoming book signings:
  • July 9 at Aaron's Books (Lititz, PA)
  • July 16 at Borders Books (Wilmington, DE)
  • July 30 at Borders Books (Harrisburg, PA -- Jonestown Rd.)
Matthew Sturges, author of The Office of Shadow, will be at the San Diego Comic Con, July 22-25th. End of the Century author Chris Roberson will also be attending.

UPDATE: Ian McDonald, author of  The Dervish House, will be reading and signing at the University Book Store, Seattle, WA, at 7pmon July 27, as part of the Clarion West Summer Reading Series.

Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of the forthcoming steampunk vampire pulp adventure urban fantasy, Vampire Empire: Book One the Greyfriar, will be attending NASFiC: North America Science Fiction Convention in Raleigh, NC Aug. 5 - 8.

And then at this year's DragonCon,  we are expected to have Mike Resnick, Jon Sprunk, Clay and Susan Griffith, James Enge, Erin Hoffman, Andrew P. Mayer, and Sam Sykes.

7/2/10

Invest in the Iron Sky

Via SF Signal:

The uber awesome film project, Iron Sky, releases its second trailer, and asks fans to donate: