Friday, November 21, 2014

Release day - "Exorcizat" (Exorcized) by Radu Găvan

The latest information states that book industry in Romania hit a new low since 1990, it seems that 2/3 of the publishers closed doors, while other signs of health from the book market are not encouraging. In this light, my constant bickering and raised questions about the horror genre in Romania, a niche with a tiny span, seems pointless. I repeat, the Romanian folklore, legends and traditions, plus nearly 50 years of an oppressive regime and 25 years more of an unstable society offer a fertile ground for genre fiction and yet it remains mostly unsown. Even so, I do believe that there is hope and a better future can be built, in the end we do have young writers and bold publishers to prove that. Without them we cannot talk of any kind of future. It is tough, from my experience the school programs force only the classics on the students and every other book outside that is labeled as unimportant, therefore plenty of teachers chase away pupils from reading in the process. It is just one part of a wider picture, but I prefer not going into detail, I wish to keep a more optimistic tone here. Because in the end change starts with each of us and efforts are made to turn things around. Keeping it to the Romanian horror genre I am happy I can point out a couple of examples, Mircea Pricăjan does one hell of a job with his editing, writing and running of the Suspense Magazine, a genre periodical, Herg Benet is a new publishing house with strong attitude, welcoming and publishing new and interesting Romanian writers. There are several more and that is the reason for me believing that our genre fiction can become memorable. For instance, Radu Găvan, who launches today his debut novel, “Exorcizat” (Exorcized), through the already mentioned Herg Benet. I had the chance to read a couple of Radu Găvan’s short stories and those made an impact, thus I am quite curious about his novel. I have a little restrain towards it, I understand “Exorcizat” (Exorcized) contains sex and violence and these two in the same sentence are not a point of attraction, but there are other things that make me give this novel a chance. A young writer, a daring publisher, an intriguing concept, a hope for the future of the genre. Oh, and more thing, we can promote such novels with the help of a book trailer too, despite me not finding those extremely efficient it is a step forward.

“… we are the hyenas that chase away the lion from the prey, the cockroaches that invade your home, the rats that put you on the run. We are fighting for food, so we are prepared…”

In the middle of a strangled city, a young real estate agent, alone and penniless, fights with desperation for survival.  Born from the darkness of his mind, as well as from the moral filth of the corrupt society that surrounds him, the demons of the past meet those of the present. Thus, the battle for keeping his own humanity can begin. Alive and brutal, overwhelming from the psychological point of view, Exorcized is a rollercoaster that strolls mercilessly the shadows of the human mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In the news - Two novels by Aliette de Bodard published by Gollancz

The good news about some of my favorite writers and their future books seem to be piling in, but you’ll not see any trace of me complaining about it, on the contrary. The latest such piece of news comes from Aliette de Bodard, one of the most talented and exciting voices of modern speculative fiction, and Gollancz, one of the major UK publishers of genre fiction. Following four years of publishing short fiction (I would not even attempt to say that each new one was better than the last considering that all of them are excellent stories) since the release of her last novel, “Master of the House of Darts”, the third entry in the “Obsidian and Blood” trilogy after “Servant of the Underworld” and “Harbinger of the Storm”, on 20th August 2015 Gollancz will release Aliette de Bodard’s new novel, “House of Shattered Wings”. Plus a sequel of “House of Shattered Wings”, yet untitled, since Gollancz acquired the rights for two novels written by this amazing writer. “House of Shattered Wings” is set in Paris and promises plenty of excellent things, beside the guarantee offered by Aliette de Bodard’s talent.

In “House of Shattered Wings”, Paris’s streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. De Bodard’s rich storytelling brings three different voices together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel, an alchemist with a self-destructive addition, and a young man wielding spells from the Far East.

It seems next year I’ll have my hands full of promising books, but this perspective is nothing but delightful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Title spotlight - "Dark Tales of Sorrow and Despair" by Ciprian Mitoceanu

I am not overly familiar with the works of the Romanian writer Ciprian Mitoceanu. As a matter of fact, I cannot cast a legitimate opinion on any of his writings, as personal and subjective as those are I read only a couple of his short stories and therefore I am unable to offer a full point of view on his works, in spite having two of his novels on my library shelves, “The Dawson Amendment” (Amendamentul Dawson) and “In the Blood of the Father” (În sângele tatălui). Ciprian Mitoceanu also published another novel, “Fangs” (Colţii), but that one is as distant as any of my thoughts on his works. Still, in the light of what I said on Monday about the state of our speculative fiction and the steps we need to take in order to move forward and to build a strong community of genre writers, editors and readers I am delighted to see a collection of Ciprian Mitoceanu’s short stories available in English. Self-published (we are still working and struggling to bring our writers on the English market through traditional publishing, be that through a small, independent press or a more established publishing house), available in electronic format on Amazon and translated by an admirable and talented Romanian translator, writer and editor, Mircea Pricăjan, “Dark Tales of Sorrow and Despair” gathers Ciprian Mitoceanu’s five short stories and novellas exploring the Romanian horror. I would definitely give Ciprian Mitoceanu’s “Dark Tales of Sorrow and Despair” a chance, even if it’s just a small taste of the Romanian genre literature. Because I keep saying, the Romanian folklore, legends and traditions offer a very fertile ground for the horror and dark fantasy genres, unfortunately little explored at the moment but with so much potential. And future, as I’ve started to notice these days.

Mitoceanu's writing is woven to the effect of inspiring horror, both mental and physical, his stories are plot-centered, and his characters, most of the times easily recognizable as Romanians, are deftly drawn to extract the dark side of human nature. 
Mitoceanu's biggest accomplishment is his showing the world that Romania has a lot of frightful stories to tell. And Romania's lucky to have him for that task, as his writing abilities in a very difficult genre are indeed worthy of praise.
Step into Ciprian Mitoceanu's horrific worlds, where sorrow and despair shake hands with (the illusion of) hope, and you will surely be getting a taste of what the young Romanian horror has best to offer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Free fiction - "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?" by Andrez Bergen

Sometimes I wander aimlessly between all these wonderful books I want to read and I even lose my path on occasions from writers I enjoy reading and consider to be my favorites. Andrez Bergen is such a writer and somewhere down the line I am afraid I lost the track of reading his novels, despite loving his first two excellent books, “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat” and “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”, I utterly failed to catch up with Andrez Bergen’s next two, “Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?” and “Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth”. I keep repeating one of these days I’d finally bring these readings up to date, but until I put my money where my mouth is I should stop repeating it. I am not sure how soon I’ll manage what I wish for in this case or if I succeed in fulfilling this goal of mine until the end of the year, but what I am certain of is that up until December Andrez Bergen’s “Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?” is up for grabs for free. It is a way for Andrez Bergen and Perfect Edge Books to thank everyone who supported his works, including his crowdfunding campaigns for two graphic novels projects, “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat: The Graphic Novel” and “Bullet Gal”. The latter is still running, so if you want to check the Kickstarter campaign for “Bullet Gal”, a collection of 12 of comic book issues featuring elements of hardboiled noir, pulp, crime, sci-fi and superheroes, you can find more information here. As for “Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?”, the novel of 456 pages, including 35 illustrations by international comic book artists, that’s an homage to silver and golden age comics as well as noir, pulp and sci-fi/dystopia… partially based in the same last-city-in-the-world Melbourne asTobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, you can downloaded for free from Amazon US, UK or Canada.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 Ion Hobana Award

I keep saying that there are signs of encouragement within the Romanian speculative fiction, that we are taking steps towards a healthy genre market for our writers and readers. Of course, I am optimistic, maybe a bit too much, we still have a lot of work ahead of us and we still need to put an end to all these skirmishes taking place within our genre literature. Let’s take for instance the Ion Hobana Award. Organized by the Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy Society the Ion Hobana Award is an excellent initiative, a good way to celebrate and recognize the local speculative fiction. However, as it is the case with the 2014 Ion Hobana Award news of it came out of the sudden, the little information about the National Ion Hobana Colloquy, held by the Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy Society together with the Romanian Writers Union and the Romanian Cultural Institute, and the Ion Hobana Award seeming to appear out of nowhere. True, I might be wrong and perhaps I arrived a little too late to this party, but I doubt this to be entirely true since a small scavenging around the Internet for further information provides little more. I failed to find a list of nominees or the exact publishing period taken into consideration for the 2014 Ion Hobana Award, I only assume that we are talking about October 2013 – October 2014, since the 2013 Ion Hobana Award recognized works published between June 2012 and October 2013. So, without further ado here are the two winners of the 2014 Ion Hobana Award. Still, I have only one thing to add before I finish, I welcome such initiatives and consider them commendable, but we really need to move forward. We need to establish a yearly, powerful award taking into consideration and recognizing all the praiseworthy efforts made on the Romanian speculative fiction. It would be the next important step towards making our genre stronger and towards the encouragement and recognition of our both new and established writers and their wonderful work and efforts.

“We’ll Return to Muribecca” (Ne vom întoarce în Muribecca) by Sebastian A. Corn (Nemira)

The ancient fortress “Z” is hidden in the Brazilian jungle, the old legends say. Surrounded by an air of mystery, the explorer Percy Fawcett goes in its search. The time and space are multipling, the characters and stories are blending in a novel that defies the literary genres and conventions. Sebastian A. Corn is returning with a book recommended to all those for which dreaming and thinking are essential actions.

“Vegetal” (Vegetal) by Marian Truţă & Dănuţ Ungureanu (Nemira)

Congratulations to the winners!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cover art - "Fletcher" by David Horscroft

Joey Hi-Fi’s book covers send me in compulsive behavior (I exaggerate a bit since things are not that extreme and I draw only enjoyment out of his artwork, although this point of view might be consider entirely subjective and could end up being argued). Anyway, ever since I laid my eyes on Joey Hi-Fi’s art for the first time I was fascinated by his style and the depth of his works. Each one seems to hold secrets beyond the first viewing, every time I return to what seems to be a familiar art piece I discover new elements and aspects that escaped my initial experience with the artwork in question. And if such an artwork adorns a book cover my curiosity for that particular book is triggered instantly. I am perfectly aware that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and from most of my previous incidents with the statement in question its truth was proved on countless of times, in both ways. But that doesn’t mean it is not a good starting point for gathering information about a new book or an unfamiliar writer, as good as any other. It happened to me again with the latest of Joey Hi-Fi’s book covers, this one for David Horscroft’s novel “Fletcher”, released by the South African publisher Fox & Raven Publishing. Nothing new when it comes to the artwork, it brought me excitement and made me as curious as a cat about David Horscroft’s “Fletcher”. So, I’ve started digging further and that led me to quite a couple of interesting and intriguing things. Enough not to let David Horscroft’s “Fletcher” pass me with only Joey Hi-Fi’s cover artwork noticed at this novel.

“I once watched K Fletcher devour a hostage, just to outlast a police siege. She—the hostage—lived through it all, right until K started on her lungs. Several officers resigned that day. Two killed themselves within the week.
Ruthless, destructively impulsive, infuriatingly resourceful, manipulative to the extreme and insanely dangerous when bored, K Fletcher is not what I would call ‘human’. Rather, it’s a murderous force of nature, lurking behind the person-mask of an alcoholic, drug-infused private detective. With the world falling apart at the seams, I guess that’s exactly what you need to be to survive.”
– Secret Service briefing, speaker classified.

What people are saying about Fletcher

"This charming killer is nearly indestructible, and goes where even demons would hesitate to tread - a blood-drenched, death-defying thriller."
- Nerine Dorman

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In the news - Sofia Samatar works on two new books

I was delighted to see Sofia Samatar’s “A Stranger in Olondria” adding next to a British Fantasy Award and a Crawford Award a World Fantasy Award for best novel the past week-end, in my opinion entirely deserving so, because it was one of the my favorite books I read last year, and not only. It was not the sole reason of joy for me when it comes to “A Stranger in Olondria” since I also discovered that Sofia Samatar is hard at work not only on a sequel of her debut novel, entitled “The Winged Histories”, but also on a volume of short stories, both of them due to be released by the publisher of “A Stranger in Olondria”, Small Beer Press. And both coming with guarantees, “A Stranger in Olondria”, as I’ve already mentioned, lines up awards and praise, while a collection of short stories can only be a great thing, if only we take into account the excellent “Selkie Stories are for Losers” as an example. But there are others such goodies that make a contribution to the said guarantee and you can find a list on Sofia Samatar’s website, with appropriate links to those available for free online. I am looking forward with excitement for both Sofia Samatar’s new books and hopefully to plenty others to come.