Stories: All-New Tales

Review by Roz Kaveney at Financial Times
Anthologies are almost as hard to review as they are to edit. This is especially true when, as here, the emphasis of the editors is on something intangible rather than on some very obvious organising principle. We can judge collections of stories about cute cats or left-handed socket wrenches on the grounds of how they fulfil their brief and open out a simple set of categories into something more varied. An anthology such as this – where the emphasis is on story and narrative drive – is always going to produce essentially subjective reactions.

It’s clear from Neil Gaiman’s introduction that he and Al Sarrantonio, when they invited a number of authors to contribute to this book, made their sole requirement that the stories be involving and attention-keeping. Gaiman argues that “and then what happened?” is something which writers should keep perpetually in mind. Several of these stories are tightly plotted or, which is not the same thing, packed with incident, enough for a piece two or three times their length. Jeffrey Deaver’s “The Therapist” almost convinces us of its main narrator’s pseudo-scientific theory of rationalised demonic possession, then shifts our involvement to the prosecutor who has to go after him when he acts on his theories, and then back to the narrator’s further understanding of the implications of his own ideas.

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Danann Frost Falls from Grace “taster edition”

via Joanne Valiukas’ website
The first 19 chapters of Danann Frost Falls from Grace are available as a free sample “taster edition” PDF document.

Danann Frost is thousands of years old, yet young for her kind. She is a creature of the Light, an Angel…one of the Seraphim; a race of beings that live beyond our world. She has been cast out of paradise and Fallen from Grace, all for the love of a Dark One…a vampire. The only problem is…Seth did not want her and told her to go and not come back. Danann has made a life for herself amongst the vampires of this world and they protect her fragile nature. She and the vampire Asher live on the fringes of the human world; love and loyalty cannot separate them but trouble and vengeance are on their way.

After two hundred years of enduring the crippling punishments of her Fall, Seth walks back into her life but he is bitter and angry and out for revenge. Thank God he is after someone else…or is he?

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The Birth of Science Fiction

by Greg at Daily Grail
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the 676-page opus on the history of science fiction, The World Beyond the Hill , reproduced with kind permission of the authors Alexei and Cory Panshin and publisher Phoenix Pick.

For the first two hundred years of the modern era — from the accession to the leadership of Western society by the philosophy of rational materialism in the late Seventeenth Century to the appearance of techno-warfare in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 — there was no such thing as science fiction literature. The World Beyond the HillThrough all this time, writers had no conscious awareness of working in a connected and cumulative SF tradition. Such a thing as science fiction was unthinkable, unimaginable. It didn’t exist.

How very different the situation is today! In the late Twentieth Century, nobody at all would think to doubt that there is such a thing as science fiction. Paperback racks are filled with books labeled “SF.” There is a great visible science fiction industry: writers, editors, critics, magazines, books, films, fans, clubs, conventions, awards, and much much more.

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Terror Eternal: The enduring popularity of H.P. Lovecraft

By Stefan Dziemianowicz at Publisher’s Weekly
For nearly a century, a formidable presence has cast its shadow over horror publishing. As protean as it is pervasive, it has insinuated itself into virtually all aspects of the genre’s publishing platform: trade publishing, specialty press, comics and graphic novels, role-playing game scenarios, movie novelizations, audiobooks, Web zines, and now e-books. It’s the spirit—or, if you will, the shade—of H.P. Lovecraft, and every decade it looms larger and darker.

Once the private worship of a small but dedicated congregation of devotees, Lovecraft has hit the big time in the first decade of the new millennium…Lovecraft’s fiction is now enjoying the same broad dissemination through trade publishing houses and their classics imprints that was once reserved, as American horror fiction goes, for Lovecraft’s main inspiration, Edgar Allan Poe.In some ways, though, Lovecraft’s reach is more encompassing than Poe’s. The Cthulhu Mythos, a myth cycle distilled from his fiction that is to the Lovecraft universe what Middle-earth is to Tolkien’s fiction, has been a fertile and fecund subgenre of horror fiction since before Lovecraft’s death in 1937, and hundreds of writers over the decades have contributed tales written in Lovecraft’s style, infused with its philosophy of cosmic pessimism, or full of references to the entities, books of occult lore, and unhallowed smalltowns that are its signifiers—among them Straub, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín Kiernan, and Brian Lumley. Last year, Dark Horse brought out Lovecraft Unbound, an anthology of original stories, edited by Ellen Datlow, penned by leading writers of fantasy and science fiction, all of which evoke the spirit, if not the specifics, of Lovecraft’s writings, and capture what Datlow refers to as “the deep dread and fear of the unknown” that distinguishes Lovecraft’s tales of horror for her.

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2010 Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards announced

Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor
The Mythopoeic Society has announced the winners of the 2010 Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards. Congratulations to the winners, and particular congratulations to our own Jo Walton!

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature: Jo Walton, Lifelode (NESFA Press)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies: Dimitra Fimi, Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

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Kraken’s China Mieville on “Five Underrated Literary Cephalopods”

by Jeff VanderMeer at Omnivoracious
[A]ny novel that involves odd squid cults, natural history museums, and talking tattoos sounds like great summer reading to me, and Entertainment Weekly just gave [Kraken] an A-.

It was Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Diolé who named cephalopods ‘the soft intelligence’, in the subtitle to their 1973 book Octopus and Squid. At first, the adjective seems vaguely simpering, as if these ambassadors of alterity are in fact safe, unthreatening, cuddly. But immediately comes a strangeness. If they are a, no, the soft intelligence, what are we? Hard intelligence? Soft unintelligence? Why are they soft intelligence singular? Is each but an iteration of some tentacular totality? What strange sentience. An opaque collective.

2) This monster with a strange gaze. Louise Michel, Bonne Louise, the red she-wolf, anarchist hero of the Paris Commune, condemned to exile in New Caledonia after its tragic failure, collected stories of and from the local Kanak people and their home (whose uprising, in her unflinching dedication to emancipation, she, unlike even many of the ex-communards, supported). ‘The Cyclone’ is a stunning meditation on the sea-storm and its aftermath. In prose as limpid as the rock-pools she searches, Michel itemises creatures thrown up by the upheaval, among them ‘a half-dead octopus opens its human eye’. ‘May he too return to the waters,’ she urges, her sympathy unconstrained by species-chauvinism, ‘this monster with a strange gaze.’ A monster, a strange gaze, of an eye that is and yet cannot be human.

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