Signed Book Giveaway & Interview: Jeffrey Bardwell, Author of Broken Wizards

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Jeffrey Bardwell. He kindly lets me heckle him with questions and is also offering up 5 signed advanced review copies of Broken Wizards, open internationally! Scroll to the end of the post to check out that giveaway!

1. If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

If I were a background character, I would be the cheeky voice of experience gleefully hanging lampshades on all the plot holes while the protagonist was walking down the street and pontificating or ordering a pizza. I would be the very astute, very snarky delivery boy who would be stiffed his tip for my troubles.

2. Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

Fiery breath? Long nails? Flaky skin? I’m half way there already every time I wake up in the morning. I would much prefer to be than to have a dragon. That way, I’d be the one making the messes instead of cleaning them up (of the destructive burning building variety). Any dragon I own will be house trained.

3. As an ecologist, what’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

There are several species of fungi that will invade insects’ bodies and nervous systems and turn them into zombie bugs. I find the concept terrifying. I once had a mentor who could eat a ham sandwich with one hand and perform a blunt dissection with the other, so gore doesn’t really gross me out these days. My nightmare fuel is more psychological and of the body snatchers variety.

4. If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Um . . . Batman, hands down. Save me, oh knight of darkness!

5. If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The one with the most engaging plot twists of course: Game of Thrones. Mostly, I just want to wipe my mind and binge watch the whole series after it’s released while curled up on the couch with the love of my life. Now, where can I find some of that brain-warping fungus?

6. Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

It’s a tie between Sherlock Holmes and Watson and Batman and Robin. I guess it’s no coincidence the the latter are the superhero expies of the former.

7. What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

My den is a semi organized mess. I can usually jot notes, work on revisions, write the bare bones of scenes, and plot novels anywhere. But actually sitting my butt in a chair and writing chapters at a time requires either my desk in the basement or the kitchen table, depending on the weather. I hope to get a proper office organized someday in the guest room, but as they say, hope springs eternal.

8. If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Oh, wow. You’re asking that of an ex academic [rubs hands together and grins]. Let’s teach! I would arrange my course around authors rather than books. I guess I would start with Edgar Allen Poe and the intersection of mystery, horror, and fantasy and then look at how different authors have added their own unique spin on SFF over the years. I’d throw in some lesser known authors like James H. Schmitz to show off a few outliers like well-rounded, perceptive female characters. Then, we’d examine common tropes and how they reflect how SFF changes with society and then start deconstructing them. Now that I’ve said all that, I really want to teach that class . . .

9. It’s a long sailing trip: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I admit I would cheat and bring the following: 1) a hand crank generator, 2) an AC/DC converter, 3) a few shrink wrapped ereaders with an eclectic mix of everything I can cram into them, and 4) OK, one or two hardbacks: Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read those multiple times over the years, so I wouldn’t mind being stuck with them when my generator fails or the boat sinks and it’s desert island time.

About Author Jeffrey Bardwell:

Jeffrey Bardwell is an ecologist with a Ph.D. who loves fantasy, amphibians, and reptiles. The author devours fantasy and science fiction novels, is most comfortable basking near a warm wood stove, and has eaten a bug or two. The author populates his own novels with realistic, fire breathing lizards. These dragons are affected by the self-inflicted charred remains of their environment, must contend with the paradox of allometric scaling, and can actually get eaten themselves.
The author lives on a farm, is perhaps overfond of puns and alliterations, and is a gigantic ham. When not in use, he keeps his degrees skinned and mounted on the back wall of his office. Email at: jhbardwell@gmail.com

 

Places to Stalk Jeffrey Bardwell

websitefacebook ~ twitter ~ goodreads

Book Blurb about Broken Wizards

Time’s up for mages!

The wizard purge is in full swing. Sorcery is illegal in the modern, steam-powered Iron Empire. The Magistrate’s Black Guards hunt the uncivilized mages using mechanized armor and mysterious, clockwork weapons. The guards deliver their prisoners to the Butcher, Captain Vice. All wizards are tortured and executed as traitors to the state . . . with one exception.

That exception is Devin, an outbreak mage and ex artificer, a prince of machinery. The Magistrate exiles the youth over Vice’s protests to the wild kingdom of wizards and dragons. Devin only knows gears and springs, but his savage magic offers salvation, if he can tame it. The exile must learn to harness his dangerous, new powers before the Butcher tracks him down to finish the job.

Follow Devin’s quest in Book One of The Artifice Mage Saga. Join the fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody’s hands are clean.

Amazon ~ kobo ~ Free Sample

GIVEAWAY!!!

Jeffrey is graciously offering up 5 signed ARCs of Broken Wizards [OPEN INTERNATIONALLY]. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) What books would you take on a long sea voyage? 2) Where do you live? Giveaway ends May 10th, 2017, midnight.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Matthew Davenport, Author of the Andrew Doran Series

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranFolks, please welcome Matthew Davenport. It’s a pleasure to have him on the blog today. I really enjoyed his book The Statement of Andrew Doran several months ago and jumped at the chance to pick his brain. Today we chat about dead authors, networking, side characters, and much more! Also, we have an awesome AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY for you all. Scroll to the bottom to check that out!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Not in any of my works. Sidekicks all have value to some degree. I try to keep to giving anything that I introduce value. So, if you meet a new character at the beginning of a story but don’t see him for a while, just hang in there, because it’s very likely that he’ll have a pivotal role in the end of the story.

A great example of this is in my Andrew Doran novels. Andrew…collects certain people in his travels. At first they are just a means to an ends, but somewhere along the way, Andrew finds value in keeping these people along as more than just tools, they become friends and allies in his battles.

Comparatively, my horror novel The Trials of Obed Marsh does this as well. Instead of collecting people in his travels, Obed Marsh has family and friends that you might meet near the beginning of the story, but it isn’t until the story begins to climax that you realize their true role.

I’m a firm believer that every name, object, or place that an author focuses on needs to have some sort of reason that it was introduced. If you’re just going to say “Look, an apple!” and never use that apple as a plot device, it has absolutely no reason being in your book. Cut out the fluff before your editor does.

DavenportTheTrialsOfObedMarshIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

My first two novels (Random Stranger and Stranger Books) didn’t have any research…at all. But they were fictional accounts completely based on character development. The little research I did was focused on mythical creatures and their evolutions through different cultural interpretations. While that sounds heavy, it really wasn’t. A quick Google search of “All the names Santa Claus ever had” gave me most of my research.

Alternatively, The Trials of Obed Marsh and both Andrew Doran novels demanded a heavy amount of research. All three are heavily influenced by both the eras that they take place in, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted the horror and adventure aspects within Lovecraft’s stories to resonate with the true fans, and read everything that Lovecraft wrote (again, as I was already a fan), taking very extensive notes. Once those notes were done, I looked toward the expanded works. A lot has been added to the mythos since Lovecraft died, and I wanted the relevant pieces to make it into each of those stories as well.

On top of that, the eras that these stories were placed in made a huge change to the flavor of each story, and they needed to be right. The Trials of Obed Marsh was a 19th century sailing story. I didn’t want to just guess at what sailing culture was back then, or how the boats would circumnavigate the globe, so I studied up on how it was done.

With Andrew Doran, I wanted it to be a sort of history lesson that had nothing to do with history. Each chapter of the first book takes place in a new city in Nazi-controlled Europe. I sprinkled in facts explaining the states of those countries during those years, and then I added monsters.

As for how I decide what to research, I start writing my draft notes and if I don’t know how something was done, I start searching the web for everything I can on it until I feel I could hold my own in at least a basic conversation about the subject.

It helps to read…a lot.

DavenportRandomStrangerAs a experienced author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

First: Networking. Outside of my author stuff, I run Davenport Writes, LLC. It’s a company that offers publishing resources for authors. I offer consulting, freelancers (cover artists, voice actors, editors) and book signings for the local folks. The most powerful tool in any author’s toolbox is a handshake. The more people that you can tell about your books, the more people who are going to want to help you get your books out there. What I’ve found is that everyone wants to help you, but they can’t help you until they know about you.

Second: Live. Say yes to everything. Even if it doesn’t sound entirely fun. Once you’ve had the experience, it’s a tool in your toolkit for writing. If I have a friend that wants me to do something that I find unpleasant, that little bit of life I’ll be living will be material for the next story. That adds realism and realism makes great writing.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams. Let’s start with a serious dinner and end on the lightest. I feel like we’d also end drunk, and drunk with Douglas Adams sounds more fun than drunk with Lovecraft. *shiver* A drunk Lovecraft would be a terror I don’t think many are prepared for.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I manage Davenport Writes, LLC, read, watch horror/adventure movies, and enjoy my evenings with my wife.

DavenportAndrewDoranAtTheMountainsOfMadnessWhat is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The first full novel I read, and it wasn’t really a novel like what I read today, was an old book called My First Toolbox. The book was about a kid who purchased a toolbox with his allowance in order to build…something or another…and then he found he still didn’t have enough money to make whatever it was he wanted to make. That was when he learned that he could make more money by fixing all the neighborhood kid’s stuff. I read that in first grade, and I was more excited that I had completed such a huge book (not even 60 pages, I’m sure) than about the book itself.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I guess this would depend on the types of obstacles. I’m not inviting some lanky author to some sort of duck and jump obstacle course. On the other hand, I’m leaving the shorties behind if I’m going to have climb or jump on anything.

…I take it back. Ralph Macchio. Why not?

And yes, libations. I never say no to libations. Celebratory Templeton Rye

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranThe Statement of Andrew Doran Book Blurb:

Dr. Andrew Doran has been out of touch with the major civilizations for quite a while. When an emissary from his Alma Mater demands his assistance, Andrew is in such a state that he has no choice but to help. The Nazis have taken the Necronomicon from Miskatonic University’s library. With it they could call upon every form of darkness and use the powers of the void to destroy all who stand in their way of unlimited power. For years Doran has been at odds with Miskatonic University. Putting his negative feelings aside, Andrew takes charge and heads straight into the Nazi controlled territories of Europe. Along his journey from America and into the heart of Berlin, the dark Traum Kult, or Dream Cult, has sent beasts from the void between worlds to slow his progress. This is adventure and monsters unlike anything the anthropologist has ever experienced, and only with the assistance of the trigger-happy Leo and the beautiful Olivia, both members of the French Resistance, does Dr. Doran have any chance of success. Nazis, zombies, wizards, and beasts roam the path before Dr. Andrew Doran. A sane man would flinch. Dr. Andrew Doran charges in.

DavenportTheTrialsOfObedMarshThe Trials of Obed Marsh Book Blurb:

Innsmouth was a corrupted and fallen town, consumed by its greed and controlled by the Esoteric Order of Dagon. In 1928, the Federal Government destroyed Innsmouth and the nearby Devil Reef based on claims made by a man who had visited the town.

Four years after the mysterious disappearance of Robert Olmstead, the man who sent the FBI to Innsmouth, his closest friend has discovered new evidence into the reality of what Innsmouth truly was: He has found the Journal of Captain Obed Marsh.

The journal paints an intense scene of a vibrant town and how one man’s good intentions can pave the way to Hell itself.

Or in this case…to Y’ha-nthlei.

What can test a man so intensely as to break him from his righteous path?

Only the journal can shed light on that.

Places to Stalk Matthew Davenport

Website

Facebook

Audible

Amazon

GoodReads

Davenport Writes, LLC

GIVEAWAY!!!

Matthew Davenport is generously offering up 5 audiobooks of The Statement of Andrew Doran and 5 audiobooks of The Trials of Obed Marsh. You’ll need an Audible.com account to receive one of these books if you win. You can enter to win either book or enter to win both! To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Which book (or both) do you prefer to win? 3) What’s the first book you remember reading? 4) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends October 26th, 2015 midnight.

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Interview & Giveaway: Prashant Pinge, Author of Sceadu

Prashant PingeEveryone, please welcome Prashant Pinge to the blog today! We chat about fantastical creatures and great hero duos! If you want to check out the awesome giveaway (ebooks & gift card!) scroll to the bottom for all the info. Enjoy!

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I think Griffins are magnificent beasts, and given an opportunity, meeting one in the wild would be a dream come true. It’s actually quite difficult to pick a single terrifying mythical creature given all the ones I have encountered in literature and films. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be the Minotaur. A selfie with the Griffin would be fantastic. With the Minotaur, perhaps if heavily sedated.

With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone? 

I would say that labeling e-books in multiple genres provides readers with an opportunity to explore books that otherwise would fall beyond their defined range of interests. I would look at this as a positive trend to move readers beyond narrow niches as long as authors don’t simply add genres to increase their reach. Personally, I always read the blurb before making a decision.

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages? 

Some of my favourite book villains would be Professor Moriarty, The White Witch and Lord Voldemort. My favourite hero duo would be Frodo and Sam.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you? 

While I certainly enjoy reading classics, my exposure to any retellings has only been through cinema. Some of the reboots I have liked are Clueless, Easy A and From Prada to Nada. War of the Worlds did not work for me.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

A. A. Milne (a pot of honey), Somerset Maugham (khow suey), Erle Stanley Gardner (filet mignon and baked potatoes), William Shakespeare (wine, bread, cheese), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (would share the food ordered by the others)

Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye that you found stood above other books? 

The Spiderwick Chronicles, without a doubt. The quality of artwork, the imagination, the detailing – everything is superlative.

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I am not writing, I enjoy collecting old coins, reading fiction, travelling to exotic destinations, watching movies, and listening to music. Occasionally, I indulge my creativity as well. For instance, I recently wrote and produced a short film titled Freedom of Expression. I am also keenly interested in the subjects of psychology, mythology and ancient history.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Fountain of youth or potion of immortality? The topic of a recent (and rather lengthy) discussion I had with a friend. The jury is still out on this one.

Info on Prashant’s latest book, Sceadu

Genre: YA fantasy fiction

Publisher: Prashant Pinge (self published)

Date of publication: Nov 10, 2014

ASIN: B00NVCV0I0

Number of pages: 246 (in 6” x 9” PDF)

Word count: About 70,000

Book trailer: http://youtu.be/BIQHTbekS8Y

Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NVCV0I0/

Blurb/book description:

All this while, Matilda’s shadow had been growing larger and larger. Suddenly, it lunged out of the ground and swallowed her, like a python does its unsuspecting prey.

Nine year old Matilda ends up with a century old book through a series of strange coincidences. And disappears. Her brother and cousins are forced to suspend their hostilities and pursue her to Sceadu, a land inside the human shadow. Once there, the reluctant visitors find themselves chased by the vicious Hefigans, creatures of Sceadu. However, everything changes with the revelation of an ancient prophecy that foretells the doom of the world they left behind.

With the stakes suddenly raised, the children must now navigate the dangerous terrain, overcome grave challenges, and unlock the secrets of the shadow. But can they do it in time to thwart the plans of the treacherous Hefigans? Or will they succumb to the guile of a ruthless enemy who is equally determined to destroy mankind?

Sceadu is a fast-paced adventure which blurs the boundary between the physical and the psychological, the real and the mythical.

lders relaxed; he was in control, at least for the time being. There would be challenges ahead, grave ones. The boy had probably complicated things. But he could deal with all that later.

Author bio:

Prashant Pinge is a published author of short stories and books in the genres of children’s fiction and young adult fantasy fiction. He also writes historical fiction and romantic comedies. His book, Raja & the Giant Donut, was shortlisted for the Economist Crossword Book Awards in the Children’s Writing category in 2011.

Prashant lives in Mumbai, India, with his wife, Avantika, and son, Arjun.

Author web links:

Book website – http://sceadu.net

Author website – http://prashantpinge.com

Author Facebook page – http://facebook.com/PrashantPingeAuthor

Sceadu Facebook page – http://facebook.com/SceaduTheBook

Twitter page – http://twitter.com/prashantpinge

LinkedIn page – http://in.linkedin.com/in/prashantpinge

Google+ page – http://plus.google.com/+PrashantPinge

Goodreads page – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8393378.Prashant_Pinge

GIVEAWAY!

The giveaway includes 10 Amazon Gift Cards ($10 each) and 15 e-copies of Sceadu (available in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats). Just click on the Rafflecopter link below. Giveaway runs from Dec. 1- 21, 2014. Good luck!

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Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

SummersSpaceHorrorsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

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The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

Pico contemplating attacking the camera flash.
Pico contemplating attacking the camera flash.

Why I Read It: I needed some vintage SF in my reading diet.

Where I got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: PG-rated adventure fans.

Narrator: Michael Prichard

Publisher: Tantor Media (2009)

Length: 8 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Professor Challenger

Author’s Page

This book was first published in 1912. Keep that in mind because some of the themes and plot devices will be dated. Professor Challenger went tromping around the Amazon jungle and discovered some truly amazing things. He returns to London to pull interest together for another expedition. However, London society makes fun of his claims. Luckily, there are a few young-blooded men with too much time on their hands and they volunteer to help the Professor out. One of these men is newspaper reporter Edward Malone. He and Lord John Roxton and Professor Summerlee join forces, and bank accounts, to go off adventuring.

I love Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows, but I never much cared for the written stories. I know, I should be wearing some sort of reader’s cone of shame. But there it is. So a friend told me that Doyle himself didn’t particularly care for the stories, but they paid the bills. She suggested I try some of his other works. This book is a great example of how good Doyle’s work can be. I loved the adventure, the unknown, the suspense. It was well done. While there are a few bits that date it (which I’ll discuss in the next paragraph), I still quite enjoyed it. Basically, it’s a bunch of nerdy science types getting together to go off into the unknown jungle and play with specimen jars. The biologist in me quivers in anticipation just thinking about it! Who wouldn’t want to go?

OK, so the dated bits. There’s only 1 female, and she is the love interest of Malone. He wants her, she’s not interested. I found their conversation very amusing. Yes, it is dated as in she wants a man who goes out into the world and grabs a bit of fame and fortune, and then she will consider being interested in him. But I liked that she wasn’t the teary type and she also didn’t go all swoony when he said he was going off to the unknown dark depths of a jungle on another continent to face who knows what beasties. And the second dated part is how all the white male science nerds treat anyone of color. Sigh….

There’s dinosaurs. I don’t think that is a spoiler because everyone knows that white folk have been hunting for dinos in the South American jungles for at least a century. But they have to assault this high plateau to go see them and verify that Professor Challenger wasn’t just blowing smoke back in London. And there’s more than one set of natives to be investigated….and perhaps flee from. Malone and Challenger stood out the most, character-wise, to  me. Challenger had a chip on his shoulder since no one believed his claims. Malone was trying to prove something to himself, and maybe his unrequitted love. But over all, it was the adventure that I really loved. they were exploring the unknown in search of something ancient and thought long dead. And I think that is what will keep me coming back to the Professor Challenger series.

VintageScifiBadgeThe Narration: Michael Prichard did a good job with distinct male voices. His one female voice made me think of Lauren Bacall. He gave accents to Zambo and the native Indian guides.

What I Liked: Spirit of adventure; historical SF literature for its own sake; the lone female wasn’t all swoony silly; lots of science nerds playing with their specimen jars; dinosaurs!

What I Disliked: Only 1 female role; anyone of color is in a servant role or playing ‘the savage’.

This month I am participating in two SF reading events: Vintage SF Month over at The Little Red Review and The 2014 Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to head over to these two places for more SF goodness.

2014SFExperienceWhat Others Think:

Page Turners

Violet Crush

The Neverending Books

H. P. Lovecraft’s Book of the Supernatural edited by Stephen Jones

Why I Read It: I have been trying to expand my reading horizons; with this book it was classic horror that I explored.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy classic suspenseful short stories, check this out.

Narrators: Bronson Pinchot, Steven Crossley, Davina Porter

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 16 hours 44 minutes

Stephen Jones, the editor, has presented us with an interesting collection of horror genre short stories, spanning decades, hand picked by H. P. Lovecraft. In this book, Lovecraft provided a a short introduction to each story, sharing his thoughts on the tale and the writer. This collection contains some of the biggest names in the genre, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and Washington Irving, along with others who dabbled in the genre, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among other authors. Through this collection, I could see the evolution of the gothic and macabre storytelling over the decades.

In the last few years I have read a bit of Lovecraft (Early Horror Works which was odd, entertaining, not necessarily scary), Bram Stoker (Dracula was was heightened tension and dread and I quite enjoyed it), Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle were more subtle than I expected but still enjoyable), Rudyard Kipling (Kim was a fascinating tale of India which I didn’t quite get but entertained me anyway), and Arthur Conan Doyle (I’ve always found his Sherlock Holmes to be a bit predictable and the endings to be abrupt). So going into this book, I had some preconceived notions of what I was in for. Oooops.

Let me be honest. I wanted to fall in love with this genre that has been around since campfire ghost stories were invented through this book. But I didn’t. At first, I thought perhaps it was just a few of the earlier tales, where all the women are considered somewhat hysterical or silly and need to be protected and rescued. I moved through each story, waiting for that jewel that would be the door into the rest of the book and hence the whole field of the horror genre. Yet the stories overall remained predictable, with the main characters going about normal day to day activities until they glimpse something unusual which is chocked up to fatigue, silliness, perhaps insanity, and usually ending in a way that left so many questions unanswered that the story was not very satisfying.

With that said, if you are already in love with this genre, then you should check this collection out. I found Lovecraft’s introduction to each story to be the most fascinating part of the book – his reasons for choosing each tale, his own fascination or appreciation of the author. It was definitely worth my time to find out that this genre probably won’t be one of my big book loves in life.

The narrators provided an excellent variety in voices for the short stories. I sometimes stay clear of audio short story collections if there is only a single narrator, as I find it difficult to move from tale to tale with the same voice. Several times in this collection, the tale called for a believable scream or hysterical outburst and the narrators did not disappoint.

What I Liked: Lovecraft’s introductions to each story; the variety collected in one book; the audio production itself was well done.

What I Disliked: Overall, the stories were predictable; the ladies were silly or hysterical and needed manly protection or assistance; many of the endings were left so open-ended that they were not satisfying.

As part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, I am going to count this book as horror. This event is still going strong until the end of October, so feel free to hop over there and join the fun.