Vintage SciFi Month 2017

WoodruffeTheSecondEarthClementineOnce again, my yearly foray into vintage science fiction will be lean. I do so love this yearly reading activity but I’m rather scattered this month with our planned trip to California for my big surgery.

Once again, I will be giving this beautiful book, The Second Earth, by Patrick Woodroffe a try. It is magnificently illustrated. My mom found it at a thrift store or perhaps a garage sale in Taos a little over a year ago. I actually started reading it last year for Vintage SF 2016 but a hospital stay waylaid my reading schedule. One of the things I really like about this book is that the author is also the illustrator.

Heldig getting a tongue bath from Tofu
Heldig getting a tongue bath from Tofu

Then I also plan to reread The Book of Frank Herbert, a little DAW edition. I read this oh so many years ago and really enjoyed this collection of his short stories. While I was stuck in doctor’s waiting room last week, I started this book and even got the first story read.

Vintage SF Month is going on all January and anyone is welcome to join. The rules are simple – it has to be in the science fiction or fantasy genres and must be originally published 1979 or earlier. Check out The Little Red Reviewer who came up with the brilliant idea and has been hosting the event for years.

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The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

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Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

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The Green Children by Domino Finn

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Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

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Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

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I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

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My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

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My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

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As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Audiobook+ Giveaway & Interview: Terry Maggert, Author of Heartborn

MaggertHeartbornEveryone, please welcome Terry Maggert to the blog today. I really enjoyed his suspenseful YA angel novel, Heartborn. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interview, reviews, giveaways, and guest posts. If your interested in the giveaway (and who wouldn’t be?), scroll to the very bottom to learn how to win an Amazon GC, an audiobook copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert, or a bluetooth speaker. On to the interview!

*Author’s note: these are great questions, and it’s high time someone considered my feelings about draconic issues.

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

Have, and my reasoning is purely selfish: I want to experience the majesty of having a dragon as a friend– think of the things it would lead to. Never search for a parking space. Avoid the DMV forever. No pesky TSA, or the need to check your broadsword before you board a cruise. Those are all things of the past. Additional fun: Think of the speaking engagements. “Terry and Banshee, thank you for being here. Could you tell us a little about your”—

“ROOOOAAAAARRRR.”

“Banshee would like me to tell you to never give up on your dreams. Did someone say there was an open bar?”

I’m don’t see a downside to this. Ever.

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

I could blather on about some obscure French film but that would just be posturing. In film, it has to be Star Wars because I was nine years old and it was the closest thing I’d ever seen to my dreams made real. I was a little boy when the Apollo missions went to the moon; I’d stand in our front yard (I’m from Florida) and watch those enormous rockets blaze upward and it was like I was onboard. If that doesn’t kindle your imagination, nothing will.

For books, it has to be The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. It is, and will always be my first printed love. I’ve bought, re-bought, and bought them again because I wear them out. Seriously.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

This is EASY. Magical quests are always filled with things that have tentacles and fangs and whatnot. So, as follows:

Larry Correia (GUNS!).

Jim Butcher (KNIVES!)

Ursula K. LeGuin (Diplomacy/Magic)

And, there’s an up-and-coming British writer named J.K. Rowling who, I’m told, might be able to contribute magic systems and *possibly* finance the whole mission, although we’ll have to see if her books become popular. I’m pulling for her.

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

As a writer and history prof, this question brings me great shame. Among the numerous classics I *should* have read by this stage in my life, I think the most important one is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. He was an emperor who found time to write. I should find time to read it, in between eating cookies and goofing off. Oh, and I need to re-read Frankenstein because my love for monsters has been like a fire in my imagination.

To sum up: Yes, I feel shame.

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?

This is one of the most hotly contested subjects I’ve ever discussed at author events; it’s much like arguing about the greatest baseball player or singer or whatnot.

*Author’s note: my choices are Ted Williams and Freddy Mercury, respectively.

But, on to the topic at hand:

For sci-fi, I say start deep in the past. Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs are an absolute must. They led to the explosion of what we call genre fiction, and thus, we have the golden era. I’d say, given twelve books in SFF?

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
  2. John Carter of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the origin of Star Wars!)
  3. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  4. The Passage, Justin Cronin
  5. Startide Rising, David Brin
  6. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  7. A Spell for Chameleon, Piers Anthony
  8. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  10. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  11. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein
  12. Dune, Frank Herbert

Of course, we will now let the arguments begin.

Care 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?

This is actually one of my high points. I was signing at LibertyCon this summer, and paired with Todd McCaffrey for an autograph session. Some points to know:

He is the son of my favorite writer, Anne McCaffrey.

He now writes my favorite series.

I’ve carried a copy of Dragonsong with me for more than 35 years.

I brought my tattered old book with me (given to me by my buddy Tim when we were kids), and Todd didn’t just sign it (he’s an incredibly nice guy), but chatted with me about his mom and their books. Aside from my parents, the McCaffrey family is the longest relationship I’ve had in my life. Here is the evidence:

Terry Maggert's favorite book.
Terry Maggert’s favorite book.

Then, for my fanboy moment, he signed MY dragon book, Banshee, which is dedicated as follows: “To Tim, who gave me Anne, who gave me dragons.”

I was, and am, giddy.

Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey
Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

Let’s consider this for a moment, based on something I say as a history professor. “The good old days weren’t very good.”

I love things like dentistry, clean water, and air conditioning. With that in mind, if I’m going to visit the past and have a return ticket, I say:

Stonehenge. I MUST know who built it, and why.

Machu Picchu during its peak. Can you imagine a city in the clouds?

Paris in the 1880s— Ain’t no party like a Parisian Belle Epoque Party cuz a Parisian Belle Epoque Party don’t stop. The art. The culture. The intrigue. The wanton alcoholism and nudity. It’s all there.

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?

We will run and drink mead, as the Gods intended. And by we, I mean, “Me, Leif Ericson of the Norsemen, and the Celtic warrior queen Boudicca, because I’m not just going to run that course, I’m going to WRECK it.”

AuthorTerryMaggertAbout Terry Maggert:

Born in 1968, I discovered fishing shortly after walking, a boon, considering I lived in South Florida. After a brief move to Kentucky, my family trekked back to the Sunshine State. I had the good fortune to attend high school in idyllic upstate New York, where I learned about a mythical substance known as “Seasons”. After two or three failed attempts at college, I bought a bar. That was fun because I love beer, but, then, I eventually met someone smarter than me (a common event), and, in this case, she married me and convinced me to go back to school–which I did, with enthusiasm. I earned a Master’s Degree in History and rediscovered my love for writing. My novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it. I live near Nashville, Tennessee, with the aforementioned wife, son, and herd, and, when I’m not writing, I teach history, grow wildly enthusiastic tomato plants, and restore my 1967 Mustang.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook ~ GoodReads

MaggertHeartbornSynopsis of Heartborn:

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Audible        Amazon

JuliaWhelanNarratorAbout the Narrator Julia Whelan:

Julia Whelan has appeared in many films and television series, most notably ABC’s Once And Again. After receiving a degree in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia began narrating audiobooks. She’s recorded hundreds of novels across all genres and has received multiple Earphones and Audie Awards. She is repeatedly named one of Audiofile Magazine’s Best Voices and was Audible’s Narrator of the Year.

IMDB ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

GIVEWAYS!!!

There are 3 different giveaways for this tour. You can enter any of them or all of them. These giveaways are hosted by The Audiobookworm and the prizes provided by the author. Enjoy!

Giveaway 1: A $10 Amazon Gift Card

Heartborn Audiobook Blog Tour

Giveaway 2: A Digital Audiobook Copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert
Halfway Dead Digital Audiobook

Giveaway 3: Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Mini Bluetooth Speaker

Dune by Frank Herbert

HerbertDuneWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrators: Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, Ilyana Kadushin

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2007)

Length: 21 hours 8 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dune, Book 12 Dune Saga

Author’s Page

Set in a sweeping science fiction universe, the human empire is vast and complicated. Spice, from the planet Arrakis (aka Dune) powers it all, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in not so subtle ways. For years, the Harkonnen family has managed Dune for the Emperor, but now the Emperor has handed control of that planet over to House Atreides. Of course, the Harkonnens will do whatever they can to take down the Atreides. Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica will have to learn how to survive the most harshest zones of this desert planet in order to survive the Harkonnen.

I have read this book so many times over the years and each time I take something new from it. I was originally fascinated by the book because of the desert planet, which holds such great significance for the plot. Having spent most of my life in one desert or another, I really appreciated that Herbert built real desert life into the scenery. It’s not all sandy dunes, dry heat, and wind. Plus there’s giant sandworms and who doesn’t love giant worms of any kind?

This book is full of cool SF tech as well. There’s the small transport ships for collecting the Spice in the desert, the enormous space going vessels, personal protective shields, assassin’s tricks and tools, the specialized desert suits that reclaim and recycle the body’s water, and plenty more. If you’ve only seen the various movies/mini-series based on the book, then you are missing out.

The characters are also fascinating. While some are drawn simply, they still have motives and are useful to the plot. The main characters are layered, complex, have faults and foibles. Duke Leto, Paul’s father, comes across as a capable ruler who is worthy of respect. He is sure in his priorities and his code of honor. Jessica, Leto’s concubine and most trusted companion, is Bene Gesserit trained. Yes, she does scheme but her reasons are solidly good. Still, she miscalculates and makes mistakes. Paul starts off as a smart but somewhat sheltered boy. His story arc tosses him into a world of danger, literally, and there are so many ways he could have ended up dead. Gurney Halleck, Paul’s troubadour warrior trainer, is also a favorite. He has some of the roughest humor but also pushes Paul the hardest.

For a book that has staunchly remained in the SF genre, there is a mystical side to the story. The Bene Gesserit is a long-standing sisterhood that has spread it’s seeds of religion throughout the human universe. Most are trained from birth in mental abilities as well as history, languages, and martial arts. They also have the Voice, which allows them to compel most people to simple actions. The Bene Gesserit use the Spice to peek into the future (a talent called prescience) and thereby have kept humanity from being snuffed out by this disaster or that (or it’s own stupidity). Yet there is a place they can’t look, a place that terrifies them. Paul will play a role in helping them discover what is hidden there. Since this mystical element to the story can’t be nailed down by science, it has fascinated me the over the years.

There is so much to love about this book. The desert people,  the Fremen, have their own well-formed culture, shaped by the environment of Dune. Indeed, Dune itself is like a character in the story because it’s nature has such a strong influence on the story. The little touches of various languages throughout the story are also appreciated. I find it immensely sensible that House Atreides would have it’s own battle language, making it that much more difficult for their enemies to figure out what they are doing during a fight.

If you haven’t given this book a read yet, I highly recommend it. There is plenty to be discovered and enjoyed in this classic SF novel.

The Narration: The narration on this book is a little odd. There are chunks where multiple narrators are giving voice to the characters and then chunks where it is only Simon Vance narrating all the characters. I wonder if a trimmed radio theater version was recorded and then the publisher went back later and had Vance fill in all the in between spaces for an unabridged version. Vance’s performance is really good and the multi-cast parts are really good, but I found myself not liking switching between the two. I would get used to a character sounding a certain way and then have to get used to Vance’s performance of the same character, and then switching back and forth throughout – it was an unnecessary annoyance. Still, I love this book enough to tolerate it and for the most part, I still enjoyed the narration. 

What I Liked: The desert planet Dune and how it shapes the human existence; all the SF tech; so many assassins!; the worms of Arrakis; Paul’s story arc; the use of languages; the mystery of the Bene Gesserit; a worthy classic.

What I Disliked: The narration is odd – switching between a multi-cast performance and a single narrator, and back and forth for the entire book was a little annoying.

What Others Think:

Conceptual Fiction

Only the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

World’s Strongest Librarian

Best Fantasy Books

SF Reviews

Fantasy Book Review

Interview: Michael Meyerhofer, Author of Wytchfire

MichaelMeyerhoferAuthorEveryone, please welcome the author of Wytchfire to the blog today, Michael Meyehofer. We’re going to chat about poetry, ways to burn down a city under siege, the Star Wars Holiday Special, a college course in SFF literature, sidekicks, along with a lot more! Prepare to be entertained!

What are your non-writer influences?

Being an unapologetic addict to the History Channel (Ancient Aliens notwithstanding), I get a lot of inspiration from documentaries. I’m fascinated by ancient and religious history, and of course ancient military history, and I try to weave those elements into my stories whenever I can. One small example: in The Knight of the Crane, the forthcoming sequel to Wytchfire, I needed a quick way for one of my more loathsome antagonist-generals to take down a well-fortified city. I recalled a documentary that mentioned how someone (I think it was Olga of Kiev) conquered a hostile town by capturing birds, tying burning twigs to their claws, and setting them free to spread the blaze around the rooftops of the town. I thought it was a fascinating, if macabre, story (those poor birds!) and decided to incorporate something similar into my book. I also tried to incorporate a lot of my nerdy interest in the history of the samurai and medieval European knighthood.

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

Ha, I’ve always wanted to sit down and read Paradise Lost but to this day, I still haven’t gotten around to it. I’m really fascinated by different religious texts (especially the Epic of Gilgamesh). Not sure if this counts because I technically read them piecemeal in college, but I’ve always wanted to go back and spend some time with The Odyssey and The Iliad, too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Not to state the obvious but pretty much all of George R. R. Martin’s villains are chillingly awesome—I think because they’re so complex, never quite completely evil. In that same vein, I’m also really partial to Tolkien’s Boromir, Lloyd Alexander’s Ellidyr, and Raistlin from the Dragonlance books.

Often various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

Not to sound like a broken record but GRRM is another great go-to for this. His rugged, realistic depictions of realistic, messy warfare seem heavily influenced by medieval history and political intrigue. I think Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books pull that off, too. Here are a couple more examples relating to warfare, since we’re already on that topic. As I mentioned earlier, I’m also a big fan of how Raymond Feist handles his battles (and even more so, the preparation for battle). There’s also the obvious example of how JRR Tolkien’s experiences with trench warfare affected his depictions of battle in his Lord of the Rings books, not to mention how Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences informed Slaughterhouse-Five and his other works.

There are plenty of examples of historical stuff woven into stories besides those involving warfare, though. I was recently impressed by the way Deborah Harkness uses her background as an academic to weave historical elements into A Discovery of Witches. I also love the echoes of “western” philosophy and “eastern” religion that frequently pop up in SFF, plus how the social and political strife in SFF worlds often mirror the social and cultural revolutions we’ve experienced throughout our country’s own relatively short history. Frank Herbert’s Dune books and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series are a couple examples. In terms of what doesn’t work for me, though, I don’t have specific examples so much as a general complaint. I find that I’m not all that interested in stories that propagate rather silly historical misconceptions. For instance, the Knighthood in my Dragonkin Trilogy is heavily inspired by the samurai, but I tried to steer clear of silly stereotypes that the samurai were always honorable, undefeatable paragons of virtue. I think that, like medieval European knights, they could be as terrible and repressive as they could be honorable and selfless.

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

I’m a sucker for pretty much any dark re-imagining of fairy tales, ever since Anne Sexton did that in her poetry. I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me the other day and I’m already halfway through it, really digging the premise! Also maybe it’s just the English prof in me but I can’t help thinking that virtually all the stories we see today can in some way be traced back to Shakespeare (of which there have been plenty of excellent and awful adaptations, by the way). That’s not a bad thing, though, since probably all the basic story elements in Shakespeare’s plays can be traced back even earlier, maybe to Homer. And his stories echo even earlier myths, back and back, to cave-shadowed campfires near heaps of charred animal bones. Even back then, I think humans had the same basic fears, desires, and curiosities (but significantly less literacy and way more body hair).

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

There’s no denying the fact that self-promotion is as challenging as it is essential—especially with so many other fine, hard-working authors clamoring to get noticed! You need to write countless blog and forum posts, plus maintain very active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and maybe even more importantly, you can’t just promote your own work! Especially with so many books coming out all the time, readers don’t just want to hear from someone who pops in once a year to announce a book release, then disappears. They want authors who are also active members of the community. And it has to be genuine because readers are smart and they’ll see through insincerity pretty quickly. In other words, an author also has to prove that they’re a voracious reader, that he or she loves the genre they’re writing in, that they’re as willing and eager to talk shop and promote other writers they admire. Oh, and authors need to do all this while still finding time to write and revise three, four, even five-hundred-page manuscripts.

That’s all pretty daunting, sure, but I don’t mind. Actually, I like it because it’s worthwhile. Whoever said that it should be easy? I’d add that I first came to publishing as a contemporary poet, and poetry has an even smaller audience than SFF! So that made me more respectful of what it takes to “make it,” and even more grateful and humbled when I find a reader willing to give my work a chance, or a fellow author willing to promote my work aside her or his own.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

I’d love to sit in a big smoky hall and hoist a mug on Durin’s Day (the Tolkien Dwarfish equivalent of New Years Day). Whacking Day from The Simpsons would be cool, provided the snakes are unquestionably eeeevil! I’m also tempted to add Life Day from the Star Wars Holiday Special, though I’m not quite sure I can bring myself to do it.

MeyerhoferDamnatioMemoriaeWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Oh, I was the poster child for shyness and over-sensitivity! I recall spending whole days sitting with a book—sometimes because I was lost in a story, other times because I was afraid to go outside and face bullying for birth defects (a malformed right ear and a bad limp, which seemed like the end of the world back then). Eventually, though, overcoming this gave me extra ambition and some extra perspective that I could weave into my own writing.

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

Li Po – hot and sour soup and a salmon bagel. Walt Whitman – a big plate of hot wings. D. H. Lawrence – mead and a turkey leg. Emily Dickinson – a Cinnabon. Raymond Carver – straight whiskey, probably.

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, that’s a tough one! I know there’s some disagreement as to whether or not this constitutes SF but Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five would be high on my list. I already mentioned George R. R. Martin earlier, though I’d probably start with The Tales of Dunk and Egg, his Song of Ice and Fire prequels. I’m also partial to the character development (particularly for Erik Von Darkmoor) and the realism in Shadow of a Dark Queen, the first book in Raymond Feist’s Serpentwar Saga. Of course, there’s Arthur Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (though I’m maybe a bit more partial to Childhood’s End). I’d also need Madeleine L’Engle, J.K. Rowling, and Philip Dick in there somewhere, too, though I’d have a terrible time picking one of their books over another.

KnaakReaversBloodSeaCare 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?

What, me be awkward?! Ha, actually, I’d have a hard time coming up with an instance when I met a writer (novelist or poet) that I really admired and I wasn’t kind of a dork about it! I tend to get really, really excited when I read something I like. In fact, I have kind of a strange rule that if I come across a book that blows me away (or a short story or a poem, for that matter), I make an effort to contact the author and let them know. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few readers do that for me and let me tell you, that kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

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?

While part of me has a soft spot for minimalism, I also love the epic feel of pretty much every cover made for Richard Knaak’s books. And I’m still jealous of the cover of Raising Chaos by fellow Red Adept author, Elizabeth Corrigan!

CorriganRaisingChaosWhat do you do when you are not writing?

I’m really into exercise, especially weightlifting. Like I said, I love documentaries. And video games. And, of course, reading.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works (books, movies, plays, etc.)?

Oh, I have a soft spot for side characters! I absolutely love Tolkien’s Faramir, Lloyd Alexander’s Prince Rhun, GRRM’s Davos Seaworth, Terry Brooks’ Garet Jax, and Margaret Weiss and Tricky Hickman’s Hugh the Hand.

You are also a poet, and as such, what works would you recommend for a science fiction, fantasy reader?

I like poets who know how to tell engaging stories with humor and cool imagery, but without pretension. Luckily, there are plenty who can do just that! Here are just a few of my contemporary favorites: Dorianne Laux, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Stephen Dobyns, Allison Joseph, Justin Hamm, Norman Minnick, Peter Davis, George Bilgere, Djelloul Marbrook, Travis Mossotti, and Tony Hoagland. For poets technically no longer listed among the living, some of my favorites are Walt Whitman, James Wright, Li Po, Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence, Basho, Issa, Chiyo-ni, Wallace Stevens, and Ai.

Places to Find Michael Meyerhofer

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K2DPJ60

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wytchfire-michael-meyerhofer/1119392198?ean=2940149291106

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The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert

HerbertHeavenMakersWhy I Read It: I have never been disappointed by Frank Herbert’s works.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Enjoy stalkerish aliens that mess with human events, big and small? Check this out.

Narrator: Scott Brick

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2014)

Length: 7 hours 35 minutes

Author’s Page

Fraffin is the king of his little world. As a Chem, he is immortal, receiving regular rejuvenations, and he is infinitely bored. He’s seen it all, done it all, and watched others do it all. So he did something forbidden with this little world. The Chem are not suppose to interfere in the lives and histories of the native species of the ‘story ships’ they run. But Fraffin couldn’t resist taking careful time, decades, to set up a few interesting scenarios. The Chem have been recording human histories for centuries – and broadcasting these recordings to full-sensory interface viewers for the bulk of the Chem to enjoy. But now Fraffin is about to receive an inspector – Kelexel. And of course a pair of humans are on the brink of unmasking the Chem.

I have read several Frank Herbert books over the years and have always enjoyed them. So in writing this review I have to keep his other works (the greatness the man was capable of) in mind. While this book was interesting, it is not among my favorite Frank Herbert books. First, the good stuff. I loved the whole idea of our little human lives being recorded, even meddled with, for the entertainment of others. Isn’t that how things go? Think of your favorite nature TV shows – think the producers and narrators and filmers didn’t occasionally add angry bees to the mix or tease the grizzly bear with a fish or poke the branch a great horned owl was sitting on to get the bird into flight? Yeah, so if we do it, why wouldn’t other sentient beings with advanced tech want to do the same to us? And I enjoyed the Chem politics and Fraffin and Kelexel trying to outmaneuver each other. Then there are the humans – two of which catch on to what may be happening. But who are they going to tell? Who would believe them? So, lots of entertainment in the overall plot.

Now, why isn’t this novel among my favorites? Well, there’s really only 1 female character (the human Ruth) plus a few other ladies with tiny, minute roles. Ruth is the love interest and sex object of the book. The other ladies get the simple roles of murder victim, sympathetic neighbor, sympathetic aunt, and ambitious alien on the rise. I know this was originally published in 1967 as a serialized story for a pulp fiction magazine, but Ruth is an idiot. She relies on men for her stability in life and can’t work on her own out of the house nor run her father’s business. Hmmm…. let’s see…. what was my grandma doing in 1967? Oh, yeah, that’s right – independent business woman working in realty.

MINOR SPOILER Ruth becomes the sex object for one of the Chem later in the book and is abducted. Through advanced tech, she is forced into happily servicing him. But there were plenty of times when she wasn’t under the manipulator and could have done things – like try to escape, neuter some Chem, break machinery. But no, she sits and cries. END SPOILER So I found her character weak and rather uninteresting. She needs rescuing more than once throughout the novel.

The ending was a surprise – a very nice twist. I didn’t see that coming and I really, really liked it. At first, as I was listening to the ending, I felt that it was anticlimatic. But then all the fall out happens and it all melds together to make a great ending.

One final comment – one racial slur is used and perhaps it was appropriate for 1967, but I don’t care for it today, or even 10 years ago. It is used 2-3 times in the novel and not gratuitously.

Narration: Scott Brick, as always, did a great job. It seems he tried really hard to make Ruth an interesting character, adding plenty of emotions to her voice.

What I Liked: The overall plot; twisted ending.

What I Disliked: Idiotic main female; the racial slur.

What Others Think:

A Drip of Truth

Val’s Random Comments

Great Classic Science Fiction by Various Authors

Smudge's face makes me laugh!
Smudge’s face makes me laugh!

Why I Read It: It’s Vintage Scifi Month and this fits right in.

Where I Got It: My library.

Who I Recommend This To: Those who want to enjoy some snippets of classic SF.

Narrators: Various (see below for each story)

Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America (2010)

Length: 7 hours 45 minutes

A little description for each of 8 stories captured in this collection follows below. Any misspellings of names are my own fault. This collection was an awesome, eclectic bit of classic science fiction. My favorite tale was by Andre Norton, featuring Stina and Bat (btw: it was the only tale featuring a woman as the protagonist). The ostrich-like Martian was probably my favorite character (Weinbaum did a great job of breaking down communication to its basic elements). Missing Link by Herbert was a very satisfying tale to end the collection with.

The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells (narrated by Simon Vance)

Originally published in 1906. In this story, Wallace had a strange experience as a kid where he went through a beautiful and magical door and had a fanciful time. This experience haunts him for his life, driving him to search out the door again later in life.

All Cats are Gray by Andre Norton (narrated by Barbara Rosenblat)

Originally published in 1953. Stina and her cat, Bat, figured out where to find the lost ghost ship Empress of Mars has gotten off to. She’s a starliner, rich is goods and prestige. Once found though, there is question of why she disappeared. Bat figures the answer first, and luckily, tips off her mistress.

A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum (narrated by Nick Sullivan)

Originally published in 1934. Four scientists land on Mars, and one, Dick Jarvis, has quite the adventure with the native Martian life. Think of some ostrich-like highly intelligent being, and the obvious communication issues.

Victory by Lester del Rey (narrated by Robert Fass)

Originally published in 1955. Set in a rich universe full of humanoid, insectoid, and fungoid races, Duke O’Neal is a jaded warrior married to a non-human who has been trapped in a war zone for some time. This tale is rather too long to be a short story, but rather was a novella. Lester del Rey pulls in SF coolness like time dilation and interplanetary relations.

The Moon is Green by Fritz Leiber (narrated by Katherine Kellgren)

Originally published in 1952. Ephie and Hank are stuck in an unhappy marriage, underground, for decades, while the man-made radiation storm blows over. But Ephie dreams of a life outside, which drives her to push back the lead shielding, and peer outside. Which leads her to meet Patrick, who has only a few mutations.

The Winds of Time by James H. Schmitz (narrated by Stephen R. Thorne)

Originally published 1962. Gefty Rammer is the pilot of the Silver Queen and has been hired by Marlbo to carry him, his secretary (Carrom Ruse), and his cargo to a corner of the galaxy. Of course, the cargo turns out to be something highly unexpected and Gefty has to fight for his life and rescue the secretary.

The Defenders by Philip K. Dick (narrated by Greg Itzin)

Originally published 1953. The cold war between Russia and the US escalated to peak, and the world was plunged into a radioactive inferno. Now humans live below the surface while robots (called letties) maintain the ongoing war on the surface. Don and Mary Taylor have their morning interrupted when Don is called into the office. Don, Frank, and Moss end up on the surface and discover a surprise.

Missing Link by Frank Herbert (narrated by Scott Brick)

Originally published in 1959. Lewis Orne is a junior fieldman and his mission is to find the remains of the Delphinus on an uncleared planet with hostile natives.

I often avoid audio short story collections that are read by 1 narrator as the stories tend to blend together. But this was a great collection because each story was told by a different narrator. Several of these narrators have been favorites for some time (Scott Brick, Barbara Rosenblat, Simon Vance). Others were unknown to me. All did a great job. Robert Fass (Victory) did this awesome thing with his voice to mimic how some of the aliens would sound.

VintageScifiBadgeWhat I Liked: A great mix of stories; aliens, time travel, apocalyptic rehab; the narrators were awesome; several favorite authors were featured.

What I Disliked: Nearly all the stories a) had zero females or b) the women were minimized or needed rescuing.

January is Vintage SciFi Month over at Andrea’s Little Red Reviewer. Make sure to check out her site for the tons of pre-1979 SF going on. Also, January and February are The Science Fiction Experience over at Carl’s Stainless Steel Droppings. He also has great SF stuff going on, so stop by his place and don’t miss out on the fun.

readandreviewbuttonI am also including this in Anya’s weekly Read&Review Hop over on On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to check it out for other great reviews.

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