Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wish list - "The Harm" by Gary McMahon

I discovered Gary McMahon through his collection of stories, “How to Make Monsters”, published by Morrigan Books and since then I tried as much as possible to explore his works more. Recently I was happy to see that Gary McMahon is busy writing, signing a book deal with Angry Robot Books which leads to the future publication of his novels “Pretty Little Dead Things” and “Dead Bad Things” and finishing a novella for TTA Press, “The Harm”, due to be released at the World Horror Convention in Brighton on 25th March. I have to say that besides my interest in Gary McMahon’s works “The Harm” caught my interest with an intriguing synopsis, but also with a catchy cover art made by Ben Baldwin. Luckily it would not be long until I will have the chance to read this novella.

There were three of them then, Tyler, Roarke and Potter, and they were each eight years old: three young boys on the cusp, not yet aware of the darkness that lies at the heart of the world; children more at home with games and fantasy than hard reality. The day that fused these two states – when a nightmare became real life – changed them forever.
But all that happened much earlier, in the Autumn of 1980. This is what came later, long after the fact. Rather than the details of the incident itself, this story consti­tutes the results of the harm.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fantasy Art - Dave Rapoza

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Dave Rapoza is an American freelance illustrator and concept artist currently living in Littleton, New Hampshire. Dave Rapoza is a self-taught artist and in his career so far he worked with companies such as Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, White Wolf and Paizo Publishing. Recently Dave made the cover artwork for the upcoming James Barclay’s novel published by Gollancz, “Once Walked with Gods”. He also started The Crimson Daggers group where, together with other artists, he tries to improve his artwork and other illustrators to improve theirs.

Interview - Dave Rapoza

Mihai (Dark Wolf): David, thank you very much for the interview.
How did you start to draw? What attracted you towards art?
Dave Rapoza: First of all, no problem! Glad to do the interview :).
Art was never really the end all profession I wanted. I really enjoy it but art was just another hobby I had that just turned out to be the only one I could see myself doing forever (and make a decent living). What attracted me was the idea of being able to achieve the same level of work as my favorite artists. When I was younger I used to go into the book stores and just stare at all the awesome book covers and I'd go and buy Magic: The Gathering cards just to look at the artwork. I loved how these artists seemed to just really be able to totally realize what they saw in their heads. That was really what turned me onto drawing, being able to create whatever I wanted.
But like I said before, this wasn't really something I had a huge passion for. Most of the time I'm just studying and trying to push myself to improve on each piece. That’s what attracts me to everything I do, the ability to just constantly move forward and the feeling of accomplishing goals. It’s probably the greatest feeling in the world to me. So when I got serious about art was when the pressure of life set in. I got in trouble with the law and was in court for a year/feared never getting work again.
So I decided to just put my all into art. Every day I studied for close to 14 hours a day (alternating to apply my studies and eat food of course). That was just over 2 and a half years ago. Now that I'm doing it for a living I am still consistently studying everyday along with my work. I have a constant fear of complacency and comfort haha.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Who are the artists that inspire you? Do you find more inspiration in the classical art or the modern one?
Dave Rapoza: There are far too many artists to name! What really inspires me are the people I study with everyday. They aren't necessarily the greatest artists in the world but they're always there every morning with me pushing for their dreams. It’s really crazy how driven they can be and that always drives me forward. If you don't know what I'm referring to, I run a Live Streaming daily study group for free every morning called the Crimson Daggers. This whole streaming thing has inspired me far more than I could have imagined.
As far as current artists go I'm most inspired by people like Craig Mullins, Jaime Jones, Jana Schrimer, Jason Chan, Paul Bonner, and many others. My favorite old master is probably Ilya Repin but I have many, many favorites!
There isn't any one single group that inspires me more though.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You didn’t attend any art school and you are a self-taught artist. Do you believe that an artist can improve faster and better through art classes or through self-teaching? Do you feel that you still have things to learn and improve in your art?
Dave Rapoza: First of all, nobody ever peaks and is just fantastic at art. There is no roof, no limits and thinking you have reached that point is limiting to say the least.
I don't believe there is any one single way to become great at art. Schools tend to vary quite a bit and you should really look into the staff, make sure it’s a great school. Many times art schools can hinder an artist by giving them pointless exercises and asking them to do such things as mimic Picasso without any knowledge of how Picasso does what he does. Things like this really bug me, I believe in basic fundamental training (anatomy, color, light, form, and all that good stuff), all the rest is just icing on the cake. People like Picasso have vast understandings of how to create these images, Picasso himself could render the human form really well before he did his own thing. He never just started drawing weird shapes without any knowledge.
At the same time being self taught can be detrimental. You have to be totally driven in order to succeed. If that is the route you take then you must be strict with yourself. Creating schedules and making sure to focus on the fundamentals for a few hours every day. A lot of time people just end up procrastinating or just getting one job and becoming lazy. Forgetting why they started in the first place.
I myself have a long, long way to go in art. Every day I wake up and study for a couple hours before getting into my freelance schedule. It’s very important to always stay focused on your goal. When I work I don't just try and limit myself depending on the rate I'm getting. It’s all about the next level of finish and how hard I can push myself. I'm always the first person to point out my own mistakes :)!

M(DW): You work almost exclusively using digital tools. Did you start to learn directly on the digital media? Would you recommend starting with the traditional tools and then moving to the digital tools?
DR: Well, like I said before, I was in big trouble a few years ago when I really started working hard. Back then I didn't have the right kind of traditional supplies to learn how to paint and whatnot. In high school I had won a scholarship for art school but couldn't attend due to grades/lack of funds. So instead of the scholarship money they gave me a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet (which I used up until last December).
Digital pretty much felt the most convenient to learn, all I needed was my tablet and time. After this I just started trying to learn everything I could about Photoshop and how to use my tablet. Only now am I moving backward to traditional and working more in my sketchbooks (although I always do rough sketches on paper for pieces).

M(DW): In your comments of your works I saw that many of your art pieces are made at night. Do you like to draw more at night than during the day? Why?
DR: That’s strange haha, but I suppose a lot of my older works were finished during all nighters. When I lived in Peoria, Illinois (moved there for a job that fell through) I was pushing myself to move to New Hampshire. So I often pulled all nighters to finish my work as fast as possible to save money for my move. Back then I was under a lot of pressure to basically save me and my girlfriend from having to spend the whole year in Illinois. At the time we had no car or any real big jobs to speak of. She was just starting her online shop ( so I was making most of the money for our move. Very stressful time haha, probably accounts for the late nights.

M(DW): Also on your blog I’ve noticed that you have a passion for music. What role does music play in your art? Do you have one or more paintings inspired by a certain song or musician?
DR: Music plays a huge role in most all of my personal work. When I work on client stuff I generally just listen to audio books, interview, and podcasts. This is mainly because my personal work is geared towards speed/thrash metal :). I've been developing that world for quite a while and people will probably see a lot more of it soon if they're checking out my blog. There isn't any one song or artist that inspires my work, pretty much all metal! I just love the intensity, a lot of artists listen to slow moody music but I can't handle that. My mind tends to just wonder if that’s the case.

M(DW): I’ve seen on your portfolio that you approach fantasy themes, as well as horror ones. With which theme do you feel more comfortable working? Are there other themes that you would like to try in the near or distant future?
DR: Hmmmm... I think I prefer more dark fantasy elements, mostly because I love to draw creatures. When I'm painting creatures I tend to have a lot more interest and am generally more excited to see the outcome. I'd really love to do my own comic in the future. Which is a mix of the metal/horror/fantasy stuff I do. Not sure when I'll have time but it will come out even if it’s not in comic form.

M(DW): Speaking of fantasy may I ask if you have any fantasy works of fiction as favorites? Would you like someday to illustrate a fantasy novel or its cover?
DR: I'm a big fan of fantasy for sure! I've been reading the Dark Tower series recently, currently on the 2nd to last book. Really enjoy all the ideas Stephen King delivers in there, also keeps thing vague enough for me to fill in all my own images. Would love to do some illustrations from it! Then of course I love the classics like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Favorite cover? Not sure, I always see so many I love! I love all the covers Todd Lockwood has done for that Drizzt series of books. He’s also a really nice guy, helped me quite a bit when I was working on my first book cover.

M(DW): Your portfolio is also inclined toward portraits and characters. Do you like to draw portraits more than scenes or landscapes? Do you feel that you need to improve your work on scenes?
DR: Yes, I do feel I need to improve my landscapes and scenes. Also when I was doing all those portraits that was just an exercise between jobs (I work all day everyday on freelance). Portraits are pretty easy for me, so they're a nice break between jobs to just relax. Although when I was doing them it must've just seemed like that all I ever did haha. This interview is also overdue(sorry :() so there are quite a bit of new pieces up of mine that are full on scenes and environments w/multiple characters.
As much as I enjoy portraits I love doing illustrations a whole lot more. The work I've done for Wizards of the Coast has been an awesome opportunity to consistently put out illustrations. Working on Magic has been by far the most fun in that regard though.

M(DW): You worked on a personal comic book, “Thrash til’ Death”. Is this comic finished or is it still in the working process? Would you like to work more on the comic industry?
DR: Thrash til Death is still in development, I've done some sample works of it and have most of it written... It’s just a matter of finding the right style to use. Not sure if I want it to feel totally serious or have a slightly cartoony feel. I may do samples of each and see what kind of feedback I get.
Not sure if I'd enjoy drawing comics for a living. I really just want to do mine so I can tell the story I've had in my head! Don't think I'd enjoy drawing spider-man all the time.

M(DW): From the commission works you made so far which one did you enjoy the most? Would you like to repeat one of these commission experiences?
DR: The commissions I enjoyed most were my Magic: The Gathering cards and my work on Orion Publishing's Elves Once Walked with Gods series. These were the most fun to polish and bring to final. I loved having the extended amount of time to finish things and really put my all into each piece. The deadlines weren't as constricted as some of my other work and that was a big relief.
Also the art direction on both projects has been perfect. They get where I'm going with my sketches and then it’s just a matter of finishing. I'd love to work on projects like these all the time, everyday if I could.

M(DW): Do you feel more comfortable working as a freelance artist or would you like to work on a permanent artist position?
DR: Comfort to me is a terrible thing and is the main reason why I haven't taken a full time position. I've been offered a few, some from friends but have had to deny them. I don't believe I'm ready to just sit still and accept paychecks. A lot of my pressure to improve comes from the feeling that I don't have the option to sit still. Maybe someday in the future I'll take a full time position... But for now I'm all set working freelance!

M(DW): I noticed on your blog that you post a series of video tutorials about your art and work. Do you like to help other artists to improve their technique and art because of your self-taught background? Would you like someday to teach an art class?
DR: Again, this interview is long overdue! Haha, and yes I love helping all I can. Not that I'm a master or anything like that. But I enjoy giving out everything I know about the industry and any techniques I come across. That’s why I started the Crimson Daggers study group. It’s just been growing and growing. This study group is about as far as I'd go with teaching though. Don't think I could just continually show up at a school to teach. Got too many things to do and work at!
Yeah, I do think it comes from me being self taught. I always wanted somebody doing some sort of live platform where I could just ask anything I wanted in real time. It was always a pain to send emails to pros and never hear a response... But they're all so busy! So I just decided to do it myself now that I've been working in the industry for a few years. Basically I just want to show that anybody can do it and for free.

M(DW): At what are you working at the moment? What future plans do you have?
DR: Currently I'm finishing my second set of Magic cards, some work on a new D&D book, and the next Elves book cover. I plan on releasing some downloadable content in the future and hopefully producing some Thrash til Death related product. Other than that I'll keep on pushing to become a better and artist. Hopefully everything good will just happen haha.

Thank you very much for your answers. It has been a pleasure.
No problem! Thanks for asking!

For more information about Dave Rapoza and a constantly updated portfolio please visit his website, Dave Rapoza.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Secrets of the Sands" by Leona Wisoker

"Secrets of the Sands"
Format: Paperback, 442 pages
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Mercury Retrograde Press

When Cafad Scratha was a child, someone murdered his entire family. People have questioned his sanity ever since. As the last Scratha, he's dedicated his life to catching the murderers. Now a desert lord, one of the mysterious elite of the southlands, he stands above every mundane political imperative and rule of courtesy--or so it seems until the king of the northlands tries to bring Scratha to heel. Scratha's bizarre reaction throws the independent southlands into chaos: he hands temporary control of his family lands over to the king, takes on an assumed name, and sneaks out of the city. The king sends Alyea, a young noblewoman, to hold the ceded prize: but while she understands kingdom politics, she's quickly out of her depth in the byzantine world of the southlands. What she thought was a quick ticket to power turns out to be a dangerous assignment that may well lead her to a literal dead end. Just as trapped is Idisio, the orphaned street-thief sent by a chance encounter into Scratha's service. As his new and throughly unstable master goes undercover, Idisio finds himself drawn into the mysterious world of the desert lords and their secrets. Idisio's growing comprehension of the world he's stepped into doesn't just change his beliefs; it leads him to an unsuspected truth about himself that will change his life forever.

Mercury Retrograde Press is a small and young publishing house and among its 2010 titles there is also the debut novel of Leona Wisoker, “Secrets of the Sands”, the first book in the “Children of the Desert” series.

Leona Wisoker’s novel follows two storylines closely to its end, shifting alternatively from one to another with each chapter and having in its center three characters, Cafad Scratha and Idisio, who share the same storyline since their destinies are weaved together from the early pages of the novel, and Alyea. Although the past of the main characters is only scratched at the surface, enough to give them a foundation, the three of them gain more consistency as their storyline develops. I cannot say that I attached myself to any of these characters, but they are interesting, with unique behavior and with a couple of things that are not what they seem. The secondary characters bring their contribution in the development of the “Secrets of the Sands” heroes and of the story, again none of them being what they seem to be at the first glance and not shallow in the least.

The story of “Secrets of the Sands” takes place in a world similar with a Middle East territory, geographically and culturally, but with its own features and characteristics. Leona Wisoker makes a praiseworthy work when it comes to world building, creating with care and without haste a strong world, one piece at the time. Each element has its place within the story starting with the climate, fauna and flora, urban and population characteristics, religious, economical and political aspects until legends and codes of behavior. Leona Wisoker introduces also a very interesting way of communication and also an establisher of hierarchies through different beads weaved in arm bracelets. There is an aspect rooted to this world’s history and another unique element of the story which is only introduced in “Secrets of the Sands”, but that with certainty will be developed more in the series’ next novels.

With so much attention given to the details behind the world building there is a sacrifice to be made for the novel and that is the pace. “Secrets of the Sands” moves in a slow rhythm, without many tensioned and action scenes. It offers interesting stories, a coming of age in the case of Idisio, a finding of oneself in the case of Alyea and a making of peace with his past in the case of Cafad Scratha, but not delivered in fast blood pumping pace. Like in the case of the world building the storylines are treated with care and with an attention given to the detail and not with the intention to make the reader jump from the seat in the expectance of the next scene. There is one single aspect that left me wondering of its relevance for the story, a murder mystery and another attempting murder that after it is followed for a while is discarded without any regret by Leona Wisoker only to be attended vaguely at the end of the novel again.

Leona Wisoker introduces the reader to an exotic setting in “Secrets of the Sands”, a setting with a unique flavor and that together with the story incites to a further exploration in the novels to follow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cover art - "Blood of Ambrose" (Le Sang des Ambrose) by James Enge

Through the Pyr’s blog, Pyr-o-mania, I found another gorgeous cover artwork, the one for the French edition of James Enge’s “Blood of Ambrose” (Le Sang des Ambrose) due to be released by L’Atalante. That the cover artwork for a French edition is amazingly beautiful is no surprise any more, but I am afraid that if I find more such book covers I will become very pretentious when it comes to this subject. The artwork is made by the French artist Frédéric Perrin, who also made the excellent covers for the French editions of Brent WeeksNight Angel trilogy. I like the entire artwork, the characters look great and the background is simply outstanding. I also like the spine a lot, because of the crow drew there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2009 Bram Stoker Award Nominees

After three weeks from the announcement of the 2009 Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot the final list of nominees of the Bram Stoker Awards has been announced. The winners will be selected from this ballot and will be announced on March 27th at the World Horror Convention in Brighton, UK.

Superior achievement in a novel

- "Audrey’s Door" by Sarah Langan (Harper)
- "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
- "Quarantined" by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
- "Cursed" by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Superior achievement in a first novel

- "Breathers" by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
- "Solomon’s Grave" by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
- "Damnable" by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
- "The Little Sleep" by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)

Superior achievement in long fiction

- "Dreaming Robot Monster" by Mort Castle ("Mighty Unclean")
- "The Hunger of Empty Vessels" by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
- "The Lucid Dreaming" by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
- "Doc Good’s Traveling Show" by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

Superior achievement in short fiction

- "Keeping Watch" by Nate Kenyon (Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror)
- "The Crossing of Aldo Ray" by Weston Ochse (The Dead That Walk)
- "In the Porches of My Ears" by Norman Prentiss (Postscripts #1)
- "The Night Nurse" by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)

Superior achievement in fiction collection

- "Martyrs and Monsters" by Robert Dunbar (DarkHart Press)
- "Got to Kill Them All and Other Stories" by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
- "A Taste of Tenderloin" by Gene O’Neill (Apex Book Company)
- "In the Closet, Under the Bed" by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)

Superior achievement in anthology

- "He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson" edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
- "Lovecraft Unbound" edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
- "Poe" edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
- "Midnight Walk" edited by Lisa Morton (Darkhouse Publishing)

Superior achievement in nonfiction

- "Writers Workshop of Horror" by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
- "Cinema Knife Fight" by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
- "The Stephen King Illustrated Companion" by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)
- "Stephen King: The Non-fiction" by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)

Superior achievement in poetry collection

- "Double Visions" by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
- "North Left of Earth" by Bruce Boston (Sam’s Dot)
- "Barfodder" by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
- "Chimeric Machines" by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)

Congratulations and good luck to all!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back Home & 2009 Nebula Awards shortlist

It is good to be home :) I hope you had a wonderful week and this one will be even better. The last week was quite busy and it didn’t leave me much free time, but I managed to finish Leona Wisoker’s “Secrets of the Sands” and these days I will start writing my review. Today or tomorrow the latest I will start, finally, the first novel in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, “Gardens of the Moon”, because it certainly waited too much on my bookshelves. So, I resume my regular posting, starting with the shortlist for the 2009 Nebula Awards announced last week.


- "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books)
- "The Love We Share Without Knowing" by Christopher Barzak (Bantam)
- "Flesh and Fire" by Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket)
- "The City & The City" by China Miéville (Del Rey)
- "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest (Tor)
- "Finch" by Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press)


- "The Women of Nell Gwynne’s" by Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, June 2009)
- "Arkfall" by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 2009)
- "Act One" by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2009)
- "Shambling Towards Hiroshima" by James Morrow (Tachyon, February 2009)
- "Sublimation Angels" by Jason Sanford (Interzone, September/October 2009)
- "The God Engines" by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press, December 2009)


- "The Gambler" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books)
- "Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage" by Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Science Fiction, July 2008)
- "I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said" by Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2009)
- "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster (Interzone, January/February 2009)
- "Divining Light" by Ted Kosmatka (Asimov’s Science Fiction, August 2008)
- "A Memory of Wind" by Rachel Swirsky (, November 2009)

Short Story:

- "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" by Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Books)
- "I Remember the Future" by Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Publications)
- "Non-Zero Probabilities" by N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, November 2009)
- "Spar" by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, October 2009)
- "Going Deep" by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2009)
- "Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Science Fiction, January 2009)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:

- Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount)
- District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star)
- Avatar, James Cameron (Fox)
- Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony)
- Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar)
- Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:

- "Hotel Under the Sand" by Kage Baker (Tachyon)
- "Ice" by Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster)
- "Ash" by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown & Company)
- "Eyes Like Stars" by Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends)
- "Zoe’s Tale" by John Scalzi (Tor)
- "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books)
- "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making" by Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente)
- "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld (Simon)

Congratulations and good luck to all!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Away for a week

In February I have one of my usual business trips to make and that time has come again. Since my Internet access will be limited I will not have many chances to make a post this week. But only until next Monday, when I will return home. I hope you will have a marvelous week and see you again next week :)

The 3rd Annual Black Quill Awards

Dark Scribe Magazine has announced the winners of the 3rd Annual Black Quill Awards. The Black Quill Awards honor the works of dark genre literature from both mainstream and small press publishers, with two winners for each categories – Reader’s Choice and Editor’s Choice.

Dark Genre Novel of the Year

Editor's Choice: "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn

Reader's Choice: "Drood" by Dan Simmons

Best Small Press Chill

Editor's Choice: "Kelland" by Paul G. Bens Jr.

Reader's Choice: "As Fate Would Have It" by Michael Louis Calvillo

Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection

Editor's Choice: "The Haunted Heart and Other Tales" by Jameson Currier

Reader's Choice: "Monstrous Affections" by David Nickle

Best Dark Genre Anthology

Editor's Choice: "Midnight Walk" edited by Lisa Morton

Reader's Choice: "Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe" edited by Ellen Datlow

Best Dark Genre Book of Non-Fiction

Editor's Choice: "Writers Workshop of Horror" by Michael Knost

Reader's Choice: "The Stephen King Illustrated Companion" by Bev Vincent

Best Dark Scribble

Editor's Choice: "Flatrock Sunners" by Sarah Totton (Black Static 12)

Reader's Choice: "The Night Nurse" by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-In, July 2009)

Best Cover Art and Design

Editor's Choice: Artwork by Peter Mahaichuk, Cover Design by César Puch for "As Fate Would Have It" by Michael Louis Calvillo from Bad Moon Books

Reader's Choice: Artwork by Peter Mahichuk, Cover Design by César Puch for "As Fate Would Have It" by Michael Louis Calvillo from Bad Moon Books

Best Dark Genre Book Trailer

Editor's Choice: "Audrey's Door" by Sarah Langan/Video Production by JT Petty

Reader's Choice: "Far Dark Fields" by Gary A. Braunbeck/Video Production by John Palisano

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"The City & The City" by China Miéville

"The City & The City"
by China Miéville
Format: Paperback, 500 pages
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Pan Macmillan

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Besźel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.

From my experience with China Miéville’s works I can say that I don’t know what to expect from his novels. And I mean this in a positive way, each of his novels comes with pleasant and unexpected surprises. Therefore with an open mind and a catch of breath I opened his latest novel, “The City & The City”.

Nothing could have prepared me for experience offered by “The City & The City”, looking over the cover artwork and reading the synopsis are pale introductions of what I found between the covers of the novel. I emerged in a setting brilliantly created by the sparkling imagination of China Miéville and I loved every minute, or page, of this experience. The reader doesn’t leave the starting location, because although the novel takes place in the cities of Beszél and Ul Qoma, sometimes in between these cities, all of them share the same physical and geographical position. The result is strange and fascinating and it made me feel I was looking at an overexposed photography most of the time, its concept still haunting my mind.

The relationship between the cities and their inhabitants is complex, with a thin and, in places, crosshatched boundary that it had to be respected. The inhabitants of Beszél and Ul Qoma have to “unsee” each other and the neighboring city, with the mysterious Breach dealing with those breaking this rule, be it by mistake or intentionally. The only point where a citizen of Beszél or Ul Qoma could look over his neighbor city is Copula Hall, the frontier point between the two cities, without the Breach punishing such an event. China Miéville works masterfully on his concept further on giving each city its own identity, making me feel a difference at the cultural, social and political level, each city with its strong and weak points. More so, China Miéville makes a connection between his cities and our real world, setting a foothold in terms of international relationship between Beszél and Ul Qoma and our real countries, North American and European investments within the cities and the economic relationships resulted from this, immigration issues and bringing familiar objects and events of our everyday life, such as iPod, known movies or Harry Potter.

Because of the cities situation the murder investigation that is the main plot of “The City & The City” will have its unique and complex features. This investigation, with its potential witnesses and gathering of data must respect the same boundary between Beszél and Ul Qoma. China Miéville does an excellent job on the plot too, working on the murder case and moving it carefully and in a logical succession. Also, the author will not reveal anything until the proper time, keeping the mystery and the pleasure of my reading. Investigating the murder case is Inspector Tyador Borlú, the main character of the novel. Tyador Borlú is not an overly detailed character, but he has charisma and I ended up considering him one of my favorite characters. There aren’t many moments in which Inspector Borlú uses a gun, he certainly is not a super cop and I believe that it’s because of these reasons that I liked him so much. Another important reason for this is that Tyador Borlú reminds me a lot of the detectives from the classic movies, especially those played by Humphrey Bogart. As a matter a fact I see Inspector Tyador Borlú played by Humphrey Bogart in a movie adaptation of “The City & The City”. I know that this is not possible, but I still see it this way.

“The City & The City” is an intricate, strange and beautiful novel, one that left me wondering if China Miéville doesn’t see things that the other humans fail to see or chose to “unsee”.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In the mailbox

These are the latest arrivals in my mailbox:

- "Mr. Shivers" by Robert Jackson Bennett (through the courtesy of Orbit Books);

It is the time of the Great Depression. The dustbowl has turned the western skies red and thousands leave their homes seeking a better life.
Marcus Connelly seeks not a new life, but a death – a death for the mysterious scarred man who murdered his daughter. And soon he learns that he is not alone. Countless others have lost someone to the scarred man. They band together to track him, but as they get closer, Connelly begins to suspect that the man they are hunting is more than human.
As the pursuit becomes increasingly desperate, Connelly must decide just how much he is willing to sacrifice to get his revenge.

- "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N. K. Jemisin (through the courtesy of Orbit Books);

Yeine Darr is heir to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. She is also an outcast. Until, that is, her mother dies under mysterious circumstances.
Summoned by her grandfather to the majestic city of Sky, Yeine finds herself thrust into a vicious power struggle for the throne. As she fights for her life, she comes ever closer to discovering the truth about her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history – as well as the unsettling truths within herself.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate are bound inseparably together, for both mortals and gods alike.

- "The Bookman" by Lavie Tidhar (through the courtesy of Angry Robot Books);

When his beloved is killed in a terrorist atrocity committed by the sinister Bookman, young poet Orphan becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of a London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin, not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself…

- "Servant of the Underworld" by Aliette de Bodard (through the courtesy of Angry Robot Books);

Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. But how do you find someone, living or dead, in a world where blood sacrifices are an everyday occurrence and the very gods stalk the streets?

- "Sixty-one Nails" by Mike Shevdon (through the courtesy of Mike Shevdon).

There is a secret war raging beneath the streets of London. A dark magic will be unleashed by the Untained… unless a new hero can be found.
Neverwhere’s faster, smarter brother has arrived. The immense SIXTY-ONE NAILS follows Niall Petersen, from a suspected heart attack on the London Underground, into the hidden world of the Feyre, an uncanny place of legend that lurks just beyond the surface of everyday life. The Untainted, the darkest of the Seven Courts, have made their play for power, and unless Niall can recreate the ritual of the Sixty-One Nails, their dark dominion will enslave all of the Feyre, and all of humankind too.

Thank you all very much!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cover art - "Lamentation" by Ken Scholes

My reading pile of books is growing every day, maybe not every day but every week for certain. Among that pile of books are the Ken Scholes’ novels, “Lamentation” and “Canticle”, although I read a few very positive reviews of “Lamentation”. I can’t honestly say when I will read the novels, my reading pile of books makes the next choice very difficult, but I am certain that I will read it someday. At a first glance, however, I have to say that I really love the cover artwork for the US hardback edition published by Tor Books last year. This year Ken Scholes’ novel will reach new countries and readers, “Lamentation” being published in Spain, Germany and France, and I could already find two of the covers of these editions. “Lamentation” is due to be released in Spain by Minotauro on March, in France by Bragelonne on May and in Germany by Blanvalet on August. We already have the covers for the Spanish edition, “Lamento”, and for the German edition, “Sündenfall”, and although I like the US cover artwork more, these covers are looking good too. I believe that the Spanish cover focuses on the city of Windwir, while the German cover (which comes second in my preferences) matches more the synopsis of the novel. I am very curious to see the French cover when the time comes, especially because I’ve seen some amazing artwork on the books published by Bragelonne.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vincent Chong's new blog

Vincent Chong, the award winning artist who delights us with many wonderful cover illustrations, has started his own blog. I am very happy to see Vincent starting his blog, especially since I am a big admirer of his works and this will be an excellent opportunity to see hot updates of his work, previews, sketches and insights in Vincent’s methods of works and more information about him. Already we can find a post with information about Vincent Chong, an article about the commission of a cover artwork, four pieces of interior art from the limited edition of John Scalzi’s “The Last Colony” published by Subterranean Press and the cover artwork for Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” made by Vincent for the Polish edition of the novel. Also on Vincent’s blog we can find information about his first art book, “Altered Visions”, due to be published by Telos Publishing in 25th of March and which will be launched at the World Horror Convention 2010. I already bookmarked Vincent Chong’s blog and I hope you’ll find many interesting things there too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fantasy Art - Donato Giancola

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Donato Giancola is an American artist, born in 1967 and raised in Colchester, Vermont. After studying electrical engineering at the University of Vermont between 1985 and 1988 he pursued his love for art at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the Syracuse University where Donato Giancola graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in painting in May 1992. Donato Giancola is specialized in science fiction and fantasy illustration, but since he started his professional career in 1993 his list of clients includes from major book publishers to concept design firms, such as LucasArts, National Geographic, CNN, DC Comics, Wizards of the Coast, Tor Books, Random House and Hasbro just to name a few. Donato Giancola’s talent was recognized with an impressive list of nominations and awards, Hamilton King Award for Excellence, World Fantasy Award for Best Artist, eight Chesley Awards, three Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist and multiple silver and gold medals from the juried annual Spectrum: The Best of Contemporary Art.

Interview with Donato Giancola

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Donato, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
With such an impressive career I would like to ask you first, how did it all begin? When did you decide to become an artist?
Donato Giancola: Although there are milestones in my arts career, I can't really say exactly when I 'began' drawing and painting in a serious manner. My childhood is peppered with memories of making models, toys, drawing military hardware, spaceships and finding highly creative projects in almost anything in the afternoons. Reading comics, painting lead figurines for Dungeons & Dragons, creating maps and art for role-playing, producing art projects for school, producing my own 8mm films… the list is endless! Art was a passion, yet always a hobby as I was as gifted in Mathematics as I was in art.
My formal training came late. I began my college career at UVM majoring in electrical engineering, but it wasn't until my second year at the University of Vermont that I withdrew from this career path, frustrated with the lack of creativity in classes, subjects and assignments. I still remember the day I dropped out of three engineering classes in mid-semester, shocking my friends, my family and even myself. Do not try this without proper adult supervision! I enrolled in an art course the next semester, and began my very first formal lessons on drawing. That same year I picked up my first set of oil paints, created some horrible initial paintings, and realized I need guidance, lots of guidance.
Very quickly it became obvious to take painting seriously I needed to pursue an education at a more challenging art college with competitive peers. I enrolled at Syracuse University in the fall of 1989 and majored in fine art painting. The doors which were opened to me at Syracuse proved unfathomable; from color theory to composition, anatomy, paint techniques, experimental drawing, post-modern, modern and abstract theorizing. Anyone who talks about god given talent hasn't seen the hours labored to understand how to properly put an oil glaze on a painting. Practice, practice, practice. Create, create, create. One of the greatest lessons I learned at school: no art is perfect, keep moving onto your next project/vision with additional challenges. All told, my 'college career' lasted six years, but it paid off: I'm doing what I love to do. Yet with that all said, my training did not stop after I graduated in 1992.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Some of your favorite artists are classic painters like Velázquez, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens, just to name a few. How did these artists influence your development as an artist? Do you have some favorite contemporary artists?
Donato Giancola: For me, the most important issue about painting is not the commercial printed image which reaches millions, but what a person takes away when experiencing the original work. I moved to New York to be near its wonderful museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frick Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Pierpont Morgan Library, and Museum of Modern Art. I still spend many afternoons visiting my favorite artists -- Hans Memling, Jan Van Eyck, Velazquez, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Mondrian, Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian. I strive to comprehend their complexity and bring that into my work. There is nothing so impressive to me as standing in front of a huge Velazquez that is 16' wide and 10' tall with fully life-sized figures! ( a pilgrimage to the Prado Museum in Spain was made to see that one.) Or I will spend long stretches of time gazing into the minute details of a tiny Van Eyck, 8" by 12", bumping my nose on the glass straining to see details almost invisible to the eye (Philadelphia Museum of Art has that one). It is the combination of classical aesthetics with my love of Modern abstraction that I attempt to meld into one art form in my paintings. You can see these influences in some of my illustrations. For example the portrait Cartographer is inspired after Lorenzo Lotto’s portraits; the dense compression of figures in Faramir at Osgiliath are the melding of Caravaggio-like renderings with the surface patterning of a Pollack; and the vertical columns in Ashling recall Barnet Neuman while building upon the atmospheric illusions of Van Eyckian perspectives.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): What difficulties did you encounter at the beginning of your career? How hard was it to start your artist career?
Donato Giancola: In the Spring of 1992, at a portfolio review offered by Syracuse University in New York City for graduating seniors, I received a few potential leads for representation in the illustration field. I drove down for interviews with two agents immediately. The first agency, Mendola Brothers, thought I had potential, but found my work lacking in finish and suggested I return when I had a better polish to my paintings - read between the lines -'come back when you are already a professional'. A Catch-22 situation. At the second interview with Sal Barracca & Associates, I received the same response regarding my quality of painting, BUT Sal extended an invitation of representation if I could create samples of professional quality worthy of book cover work. Sal's specialty was representation in the New York book publishing market. I saw my chance to become a book cover illustrator, concentrating in the science fiction and fantasy field. Immediately upon returning to Vermont, I began to create those samples at the rate of one new painting a month. At the completion of the work, I would drive to New York for a brow beating from Sal as he pointed out deficiencies in my samples, and head back home to work on the next one.
In September, I finally made the move to New York City to be closer to the largest arts scene in the world. It was a big leap. It would still be several months before I landed any commissions, and NYC is not a cheap place to live. I resisted the temptation to get a 'regular' job and supported myself through part time work at the Society of Illustrators. All of my free time was spent creating monthly illustration samples for Sal, visiting museums, examining other illustrators and artists work, attended life drawing classes and art openings. I shared a small apartment with two other aspiring artists, and painted every day for 8-12 hours. By December I was in the middle of my sixth sample, they were progressively improving, but money was running short and I didn't know how long this could last. I resorted to borrowing money from my girl friends parents. Yet the hard work, gamble and move finally paid off. Sal called me one Monday morning with commissions to produce covers for three classic science fiction books The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. I could not have asked for better commissions for initiation into the work of professional illustration. Since then I have not had a free moment without work as a free-lance illustrator and am expanding into other market places as I push my art further. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sal Barracca and the art director Joe Curcio for sticking their necks out for a young, inexperienced artist looking for a break. All I can say to the other agency is 'aren't you sorry now you didn't take a chance on me then?!' It is a wonderful lesson about the potential in mentoring and supporting young creative talent.

M(DW): What attracted you towards the Science Fiction and Fantasy themes? Is it correct to say that you enjoy these genres outside the art field as well?
DG: To be honest, I didn't set out to become a sci-fi/fantasy artist. While Comic books, Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons were a very important part of my formative years it was fairly easy for me to dive in to those sorts of genres when I started my career. However, I think the more important thing was the highly detailed narrative style that I strove for really lent itself to what was happening in the industry at that time, and so it became a very natural progression as a book cover artist to end up in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

M(DW): May I ask you, please, who are your favorite authors and novels?
DG: Well the most obvious is Tolkien. As a visual person, discovering Middle Earth is a life-changer and I will never tire of painting scenes from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. On the science fiction side, the classic authors like Philip K. Dick, which explore man's relationship with technology, really get me going. Also classic epic tales like The Song of Roland, and Eric Bright Eyes have given me a lot of inspiration. These days I read more non-fiction however. I'm fascinated with science magazines, national geographic, history, physics, evolution… the science/history behind the stories fascinates me just as much as the stories themselves and give me the tools I need to make my narrative paintings more real.

M(DW): You describe yourself and your work as a “classical-abstract-realist working with science fiction and fantasy”. Did you think that the SF and Fantasy art needed a new approach and an innovative style? When it comes to SF and Fantasy art, how did the different classical art currents made an imprint on your style of work?
DG: A lot of this was covered in question 2, about what inspires me about classical art. I never set out to give the genres a new style, but simply apply what I love about painting to everything I do. I always strive for the highest level of and realism and narrative in my craft in the vein of the old masters.

M(DW): The fantasy literature is in general underappreciated and is not seen as a valuable literature. Does the fantasy art suffer from the same symptom? Do you consider that the SF and Fantasy art is underappreciated?
DG: This is a hard question, because it depends on whom you're asking. Certainly illustration and narrative realism in general is still seen widely as 'low art' by the fine art world, but the point is to not look for validation from places where you won't get it. Most people work in these genres because there is something about the subject matter or the storytelling that is exciting and that is what you have to focus on.

M(DW): You’ve studied for three years the electrical engineering and I know that the engineer studies involve technical drawing too. Did your experience in technical drawing have an impact on your artworks? How did it influence your art technique?
DG: Certainly having a curiosity as to how things work fueled both my interest in engineering and desire to create realistic worlds in my art, but technical drawing never became a huge part of my education.

M(DW): Your work is done almost exclusively with the traditional tools, oil, pencil… Did you use the digital tools as well? Do you believe that an art piece is more powerful if it’s made in the traditional methods or in the digital ones?
DG: I simply prefer to work traditionally because of the sort of art that inspires me and I love having a physical work of art at the end of my labors. The genre is always in a state of flux, a condition that I love as new ideas and artists find their place while others disappear. Currently the proliferation of digital illustration and its speeding up of production times has put a bit of pressure on traditional, painted illustrators. I find the need to be faster with my turn around. But at the same time, my work as become more highly valued as original art is produced less. Digital hardware still does not substitute for a powerful idea and strong composition, these things are fueled by a creative mind whether working traditionally or not. There are some amazing digital illustrators out there, but when it comes to viewing an original I personally find an actual work of art more powerful than a print.

M(DW): How does a usual day of work go for Donato Giancola?
DG: I have two children now, so I have basically turned my studio into a 9-5 job so I can spend weekends and evenings with my family. My studio is on the top floor of my house and I will spend the day doing research, drawing, painting or doing photo shoots as needed. Sometimes I have to spend a day talking to clients or running errands, but I have an assistant that helps a lot with the more non-art related necessities of running a business.

M(DW): Every year you make numerous cover illustrations for novels. What process involves the making of a book cover? Which book cover did you enjoy the most to make?
DG: A book cover always starts with a manuscript. I read what I can, depending on the length of the book, and find something about the story or characters that speaks to me. I do several thumbnails of ideas and send them to the art director to choose from. After initial approval, I compile reference with models and photos make a preliminary drawing. After that is approved, I go on to the final painting.
A painting of The Hobbit: Expulsion which hangs in my living room is my favorite. It represents everything I aspire to and am passionate about in my career as an illustrator and realist painter; interpreting J.R.R. Tolkien’s work; displaying the humanity of characters in epic conflict; and creating emotionally charged, large paintings. Inspirations accumulated on trips to museums around the world finally found expression in a work like this. This piece, coupled with 'The Lord of the Rings' has proved to be a major springboard for a large body of work now comprising my second stage of narrative picture making.

M(DW): Throughout your career your works has been recognized with numerous awards. How did you feel when your efforts are awarded in this way? What award winning took you by surprise? Is the winning of awards a motivation for you? Do you set an award winning as a personal goal?
DG: It's always nice to be appreciated and I am continually honored and surprised by the recognition I get, but I try and make my personal achievements in my career more important than winning awards. If you focus overly much on outside validation, you end up placing too much weight on awards and becoming too disappointed if you don't win.

M(DW): You have been invited as a guest of honor to many galleries, art shows and conventions. How is the interaction with the admirers of your works? How important is their opinion in your development as an artist?
DG: It is always a pleasure when your work is appreciated but much like awards, you can't base too much weight on outside opinion. If you maintain integrity and sincerity in your work, then people will respond.

M(DW): Do you believe that your style or technique of work needs to improve further on? What other art domains would you like to explore in your work?
DG: I am always looking for ways to improve. As an artist, you have to or your work becomes stagnant. Currently I am making more time for personal projects and gallery work and I think that has opened up a lot of doors for me with my art.

M(DW): At what are you working at the moment and what other future projects do you have?
DG: Currently I am working on a lot of Middle-Earth themed paintings for my upcoming art book "Visions of Middle Earth". I am very excited for this project, as it's an opportunity to dive into one of my greatest loves on a grander scale.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been an honor and a pleasure.

For complete biography and a more comprehensive portfolio of Donato Giancola, please visit his website, Donato Arts.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cover art - "The Fires of Heaven" by Robert Jordan

The covers of the ebook editions of Robert Jordan’s novels in “The Wheel of Time” series, released recently by Tor Books, are not only better than the original covers of the series, but they are gathering artists and artwork in a breathtaking collection. The latest artwork, which I found last week on the Irene Gallo’s blog, is made by Dan Dos Santos and it joins the wonderful series of cover artworks already released. On we can also take a look over the process of creation behind “The Fires of Heaven” cover, with a few more sketches and with information about Dan Dos Santos’ work on this cover. Until now each cover was a wonderful piece of art and together they make an amazing collection of covers, one I would be very happy to have in a physical format. With David Grove for “The Eye of the World”, Kekai Kotaki for “The Great Hunt”, Donato Giancola for “The Dragon Reborn”, Sam Weber for “The Shadow Rising” and Dan Dos Santos for “The Fires of Heaven” it remains to be seen who will delight our eyes with the artwork for “Lord of Chaos”. We don’t have much to wait for that cover since the release date of ebook edition of “Lord of Chaos” is 16th of March.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"The Island of Doctor Moreau" by H.G. Wells

"The Island of Doctor Moreau"
by H.G. Wells
Format: Paperback, 144 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics
The review is based on a bought copy of the book.

Adrift in a dinghy, Edward Prendick, the single survivor from the good ship Lady Vain, is rescued by a vessel carrying a profoundly unusual cargo – a menagerie of savage animals. Tended to recovery by their keeper Montgomery, who gives him dark medicine that tastes of blood, Prendick soon finds himself stranded upon an uncharted island in the Pacific with his rescuer and the beasts. Here, he meets Montgomery’s master, the sinister Dr. Moreau – a brilliant scientist whose notorious experiments in vivisection have caused him to abandon the civilised world. It soon becomes clear he has been developing these experiments – with truly horrific results.

One of the authors who worked at the foundation of my love for speculative fiction is H.G. Wells with novels like “The Invisible Man”, “The War of the Worlds” and “The Time Machine”. Recently, however, I noticed that one of the best known novels of H.G. Wells, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, skipped my attention.

The story starts with a small presentation in which we are introduced to the journal of Edward Prendick, where he relates a strange story of his life. I have to admit that sometimes I miss such type of telling a story, through a journal or journal entries of the main protagonist. It is still a first person perspective, but it is one that creates a certain bond between the reader and the character. Anyway, the events in Edward Prendick’s are set in a Pacific island where he ends up after he is recovered from a shipwreck. On this island, Edward Prendick will face the horror of the Dr. Moreau’s experiments and his shocking results in a way that will change him forever.

At the time when the novel was written the medical knowledge and science weren’t as advanced as in our modern days, but I still had a strange feeling reading H.G. Wells’ novel. It is true that the experiments described in the novel don’t sound as terrible or plausible to me, with my very little medical experience, but transposed in our times can lead to a sense of dread. The medical science, and not only this, developed a lot since 1896 when “The Island of Dr. Moreau” was published and the vivisection process will not horrify as it did then, but I wondered what could happen now with a same disturbed mind and the possibilities offered by the contemporary medical techniques. Anyway, H.G. Wells doesn’t induce a sense of unease in his story only through the vivisection results of Dr. Moreau, but also through constant moments of tension managed through screams and noises, chases through woods and darkness and the setting, a remote unknown island that didn’t offer much chances of escape.

At the scientific level, H.G. Wells’ novel might not be as visionary and shocking as it was in 1896, but at the philosophical level remains as fresh as it was then. Although at the time when I finished the novel not many of its layers revealed to me, days later while thinking back at “The Island of Dr. Moreau” more and more questions raised inside my mind. The desire of the man to become a god is put fully in motion here, with a creation process, a code to follow and a punishment for failing that code. The regression to violence is not always due to a vivisection process, but a constant unexplained result of human behavior. Questions regarding religion, morality, society and humanity can be seen in H.G. Wells’ novel and they will not go away with ease.

H.G. Wells“The Island of Dr. Moreau” is considered one of the speculative fiction masterworks, deservedly so, and although I believe that the novel is not as strong as it was over 100 years ago when it was published it still can hold its ground among the contemporary works.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Book trailer - "A Dark Matter" by Peter Straub

I found Peter Straub for the first time through his collaboration with Stephen King at “The Talisman” and since then I had a few more encounters with his works. It is true that I haven’t read anything by Peter Straub in a while, but after seeing this book trailer and reading the blurb of the novel I think that “A Dark Matter” looks like a good reason for a new exploration of Peter Straub’s novels. The book trailer is short, but intriguing, and it reminds me of “The Blair Witch Project”. “A Dark Matter” looks like an interesting novel so I would certainly read it when I get the chance.

Forty years ago, Spenser Mallon led a group of young students to witness a brutal, ritual murder. The survivors never recovered. Now it seems he's back...
The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes. After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body-and the shattered souls of all who were present.
Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and to his friends by writing a book about this horrible night, and it's through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives. As each of the old friends tries to come to grips with the darkness of the past, they find themselves face-to-face with the evil triggered so many years earlier. Unfolding through the individual stories of the fated group's members, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that will satisfy Peter Straub's many ardent fans, and win him legions more.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2009 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot

The preliminary ballot for the 2009 Bram Stoker Awards has been announced:

Superior Achievement in a Novel:

- "Quarantined" by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
- "As Fate Would Have It" by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)
- "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin's Griffin)
- "Cursed" by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
- "Sacrifice" by John Everson (Leisure)
- "Audrey's Door" by Sarah Langan (Harper)
- "Eternal Vigilance II: Death of Illusions" by Gabrielle Faust (Immanion Press)
- "Twisted Ladder" by Rhodi Hawk (Tor/Forge)
- "Voracious" by Alice Henderson (Jove)
- "The Bone Factory" by Nate Kenyon (Leisure)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel:

- "Damnable" by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
- "The Black Act" by Louise Bohmer (Library of Horror)
- "Slaughter" by Marcus Griffin (Alexandrian Archives Publishing)
- "Breathers" by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
- "The Little Sleep" by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)
- "Solomon's Grave" by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
- "Dismember" by Daniel Pyle (Wild Child)
- "Slights" by Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)
- "The Dead Path" by Stephen M. Irwin (Hachette Australia)
- "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan (Delacorte Press/Random House)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction:

- "Mama Fish" by Rio Youers (Shroud Publishing)
- "Hunger of Empty Vessels" by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
- "Diana and the Goong-Si" by Lisa Morton (Midnight Walk)
- "Doc Good's Traveling Show" by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)
- "The Gray Zone" by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)
- "The Lucid Dreaming" by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
- "Dreaming Robot Monster" by Mort Castle (Mighty Unclean)
- "Little Graveyard on the Prairie" by Steven E. Wedel (Bad Moon Books)
- "Rot" by Michelle Lee (Skullvines Press)
- "Black Butterflies" by Kurt Newton (Sideshow Press)

Superior Achievement in a Short Fiction:

- "In the Porches of My Ears" by Norman Prentiss (PS Publishing)
- "Blanket of White" by Amy Grech (Blanket of White)
- "Keeping Watch" by Nate Kenyon (Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror)
- "One More Day" by Brian Freeman (Shivers V)
- "The Crossing of Aldo Ray" by Weston Ochse (The Dead that Walk)
- "Where Sunlight Sleeps" by Brian Freeman (Horror Drive-in)
- "The Night Nurse" by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)
- "Plague Dogs" by Joe McKinney (Potters Field 3)
- "The Outlaws of Hill County" by John Palisano (Harvest Hill)
- "Nub Hut" by Kurt Dinan (Chizine)

Superior Achievement in a Anthology:

- "Midnight Walk" edited by Lisa Morton (Dark House)
- "Poe" edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
- "Harlan County Horrors" edited by Mari Adkins (Apex Publications)
- "He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson" edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
- "Lovecraft Unbound" edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
- "Dark Delicacies 3: Haunted" edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (Running Press)
- "Butcher Shop Quartet 2" edited by Frank J. Hutton (Cutting Block Press)
- "Grants Pass" edited by Amanda Pillar and Jennifer Brozek (Morrigan Books)
- "Mighty Unclean" edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)
- "British Invasion" by Chris Golden, Tim Lebbon and James Moore (Cemetery Dance Publications)

Superior Achievement in a Collection:

- "A Taste of Tenderloin" by Gene O'Neill (Apex Book Company)
- "Shades of Blood and Shadow" by Angeline Hawkes (Dark Regions Press)
- "Martyrs and Monsters" by Robert Dunbar (DarkHart Press)
- "In the Closet, Under the Bed" by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)
- "A Little Help from My Friends" by Michael McCarty (Sam's Dot)
- "Got to Kill Them All and Other Stories" by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
- "Dark Entities" by David Dunwoody (Dark Regions)
- "Shards" by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Brimstone Press)
- "Unhappy Endings" by Brian Keene (Delirium Books)
- "You Might Sleep..." by Nick Mamatas (Prime)

Superior Achievement in a Nonfiction:

- "Writers Workshop of Horror" by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
- "Stephen King: The Non-Fiction" by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)
- "Cinema Knife Fight" by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
- "Esoteria-Land" by Michael McCarty (BearManor Media)
- "Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues" edited by Loren Rhoads (Simon & Schuster)
- "The Stephen King Illustrated Companion" by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection:

- "Chimeric Machines" by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)
- "Mortician's Tea" by G. O. Clark (Sam's Dot)
- "Double Visions" by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
- "Voices from the Dark" by Gary William Crawford (Dark Regions)
- "Barfodder" by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
- "Starkweather Dreams" by Christopher Conlon (Creative Guy Publishing)
- "Toward Absolute Zero" by Karen L. Newman (Sam's Dot)
- "North Left of Earth" by Bruce Boston (Sam's Dot)
- "Grave Bits" by Todd Hanks (Skullvines Press)

Congratulations and good luck to all!