Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 Ditmar Awards

The past week-end, in a ceremony held at the Conflux Natcon, the 52nd Australian National Science Fiction Convention, at Ridges Capital Hill in Barton, Canberra, the winners of the 2013 Ditmar Awards were announced:

NOVEL: “Sea Hearts” by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)

NOVELLA OR NOVELETTE: “Sky” by Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls / Twelfth Planet Press)

SHORT STORY: “The Wisdom of Ants” by Thoraiya Dyer (Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2012)

COLLECTED WORKS: “Through Splintered Walls” by Kaaron Warren (Twelfth Planet Press)

ARTWORK: Kathleen Jennings for the cover art of “Midnight and Moonshine” by Lisa L. Hannet and Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)

FAN WRITER: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in “Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth”

FAN ARTIST: Kathleen Jennings, for body of work including “The Dalek Game” and “The Tamsyn Webb Sketchbook”

FAN PUBLICATION: “The Writer and the Critic”, hosted by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

NEW TALENT: David McDonald

WILLIAM ATHELING JR. AWARD FOR CRITICISM OR REVIEW: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.” (

With the same occasion the following awards were also presented:

NORMA K. HEMMING AWARD: “Sea Hearts” by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)



Congratulations to all the winners!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Table of contents - "The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2012" edited by Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene

One of the year’s best collections I enjoyed reading in the past two years is “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror”. The anthologies edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene and released by Ticonderoga Publications are not only an opportunity to discover the best of what the speculative fiction of Australia and New Zealand has to offer, but also to admire a collection of quality and high-standard fiction. Although limited to only two countries in its selection to name “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror” a local collection would be an injustice, especially since writers such as Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Lisa L. Hannett or Margo Lanagan are renown throughout the world. Of course, there are other extremely talented writers whose reputations went beyond the boundaries of Australia, such as Deborah Biancotti, Felicity Dowker, Kirstyn McDermott, Stephanie Campisi, Andrew J. McKiernan and Jason Nahrung, just to name a few who are also my personal favorites. Some of these authors are present in the new edition of “The Year’s Nest Australian Fantasy & Horror” too, edition that features 34 fantastic stories and poems selected by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene from those first published in 2012 by the New Zealand’s and Australia’s finest writers. “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2012” will be released by Ticonderoga Publications in July 2013 in hardcover, ebook and trade editions and has a wonderful cover made by Yaroslav Gerzhedovich. Here is the full table of contents in the alphabetical order by author.

“Tied To The Waste” by Joanne Anderton (Tales Of Talisman)
“The Cook of Pearl House, A Malay Sailor by the Name of Maurice” by R.J. Astruc (Dark Edifice 2)
“Comfort Ghost” by Lee Battersby (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 56)
“Tiny Lives” by Alan Baxter (Daily Science Fiction)
“A Moveable Feast” by Jenny Blackford (Bloodstones)
“The Witch's Wardrobe” by Eddy Burger (Dark Edifice 3)
 “The Stone Witch” by Isobelle Carmody (Under My Hat)
“Beautiful” by Jay Caselberg (The Washington Pastime)
“The Fall” by Stephen Dedman (Exotic Gothic 4, Postscripts)
“To Wish On A Clockwork Heart” by Felicity Dowker (Bread And Circuses)
“Nightside Eye” by Terry Dowling (Cemetary Dance)
“Population Management” by Tom Dullemond (Danse Macabre)
“Sleeping Beauty” by Thoraiya Dyer (Epilogue)
“Hungry Man” by Will Elliott (The Apex Book Of World SF)
“Pigroot Flat” by Jason Fischer (Midnight Echo 8)
“The Bull In Winter” by Dirk Flinthart (Bloodstones)
 “Sweet Subtleties” by Lisa L. Hannett (Clarkesworld)
“Bella Beaufort Goes To War” by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (Midnight And Moonshine)
“Stalemate” by Narrelle M. Harris (Showtime)
“Kindling” by Kathleen Jennings (Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear)
“Saturday Night at the Milkbar” by Gary Kemble (Midnight Echo 7)
“Crow And Caper, Caper And Crow” by Margo Lanagan (Under My Hat)
“You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet” by Martin Livings (Living With The Dead)
“A Small Bad Thing” by Penelope Love (Bloodstones)
“Torch Song” by Andrew J. McKiernan (From Stage Door Shadows)
“Anvil Of The Sun” by Karen Maric (Aurealis)
“Oracle's Tower” by Faith Mudge (To Spin A Darker Stair)
“The Black Star Killer” by Nicole Murphy (Damnation And Dames)
 “The Last Boat To Eden” by Jason Nahrung (Surviving The End)
 “What Books Survive” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Epilogue)
“Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” by Angela Slatter (This Is Horror Webzine)
“The Dog Who Wished He'd Never Heard Of Lovecraft” by Anna Tambour (Lovecraft Zine)
“The Loquacious Cadaver” by Kyla Ward (The Lion And The Aardvark: Aesop's Modern Fables)
“River Of Memory” by Kaaron Warren (Zombies Vs. Robots)

Monday, April 15, 2013

2012 Australian Shadows Awards

The past Friday the winners of 2012 Australian Shadows Awards have been announced. The awards are organized by the Australian Horror Writers Association and recognize the stories and collections that best typify the horror genre, delivering a sense of creeping dread’, leaving the reader with chills and a reluctance to turn out the light.”

NOVEL – “Perfections” by Kirstyn McDermott (Xoum Publishing)

LONG FICTION – “Sky” by Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls / Twelfth Planet Press)

SHORT FICTION – “Birthday Suit” by Martin Livings (Living with the Dead / Dark Prints Press)

EDITED PUBLICATION – “Surviving the End” edited by Craig Bezant (Dark Prints Press)

COLLECTION – “Through Splintered Walls” by Kaaron Warren (Twelfth Planet Press)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Nightsiders" by Gary McMahon

Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher

Keep repeating, it’s only a story, it’s only a story, it’s only a story…
Welcome to Number One Oval Lane, the last house at the top of the hill. Robert Mitchell thought he lived there with his wife and children, but he doesn’t. Not anymore. A new family—the Corbeaus—has taken up residence, and they are on a deadly mission for mischief.
Soon Robert will understand the true nature of ownership, and he will discover that real life is nothing more than a story…a horror story.
We're playing games now. We're just beginning.

There are very few writers who can leave a mark from the early days of their careers. Gary McMahon not only is such a writer, but he also doesn’t waste any opportunity to prove his talent, with little consideration for the length of his fiction, but only for the quality of it. The latest work released by Gary McMahon is a novella published by DarkFuse Publications, “Nightsiders”.

Gary McMahon has the ability to take some of the violent pieces of news we all see on the TV or newspaper and give them a new dimension. As is the case with “Nightsiders”, the story at the base of the novella can be easily encountered in the TV programs or morning papers almost on every day basis. Robert Mitchell and his family seek a refuge into the small town of Battle from their recent violent experience in London, but at the return from a planned vacation they find their newly bought home occupied by another family. But if these stories are often related in a cold and detached manner Gary McMahon goes deeper behind the scene, explores more profoundly the facts and details of this type of story. This would only seem that changes the way a piece of news is related, but the truth is far from it. Not only Gary McMahon goes deeper within the story, but he also connects the tale and reader tighter through a gripping plot and believable characters, invades the reader’s personal space in an intimate way and throws one with ease in the clutches of fear. There are a couple of supernatural elements that can be seen as an escape for the reader, but don’t rely on it for safety, the true terror lies in the human nature and its capacity for evil.

The story of “Nightsiders” gravitates around two families, with an emphasis on the Mitchells. Irreversibly changed by violence they find no reprieve in the secluded and small town of Battle, on the contrary they’ll come face to face with another episode of viciousness. Among the four members of the Mitchells Robert sees himself as the head and protector of the family, but he struggles to find an escape from the new threat. With his world already in full collision with a world of violence Robert Mitchell is confused and insecure, he feels the unity of his family coming apart and the entire situation slipping from his grasp. If these are hardly qualities appropriate for raising a reliable defensive wall around of his family, Robert’s desperation and vulnerability lead him to a point of no return and that might come in handy in Robert’s attempt of reclaiming a feeling of security. All these elements of weakness make Robert Mitchell a character that draws plenty of sympathy from the reader, but with some traces of unpleasant personal history finding way through a breach in his present he might not be very likeable. But in the end, show me one person who is entitled to cast the first stone thanks to a spotless behavior and I will remove Robert Mitchell from the hall of clearly defined, strong and believable characters of fiction.

In “Nightsiders”, as is the case with all Gary McMahon’s works, the author doesn’t put all his effort in building only part of his cast to perfection. The antagonists are not neglected, they do not put a show only for the sake of having a villain. In this instance, the Corbeaus are as lively as the Mitchells. Although they do not get the same space for development, that doesn’t make them less solid. They feel as real as the characters given a longer appearance, the Corbeaus are the persons who the readers, like the Mitchells, prefer never to intersect. And when the plot brings these two particles there is no guarantee for the outcome. Particularly when nothing is rushed in the plot, the reader is slowly but inevitably drawn within the story, the tension is flawlessly built and is extremely difficult to find a fault in the road taken by the tale from start to finish.

There is one more path “Nightsiders” takes, that of the metafiction. After all, the character of Sergeant McMahon could be seen as a reflection of Gary McMahon in the story, keeping a closer eye on his characters and story. And when both are subtly herded towards their preordained road McMahon, the character or author, leaves them assured that they will follow their natural course. Another character, Robert Mitchell, when faced with what looks like a situation without an exit, starts to question existence and destiny. His reflections are often pointed toward the process of creating works of fiction, raising questions about fable and reality. Everything is masterfully done though, not single time these aspects hindering the progress and solidity of the story. With a final, well executed touch the metafictional elements leave some room for everyone to take a breath, without reaping anything from the inflicted fear and discomfort, only provoking the reader to profound considerations.

Ever since his debut Gary McMahon made an impact on the horror genre and continues to do so. “Nightsiders” is just another proof of the quality and high-standard of Gary McMahon’s writing and one more brick paving his route in becoming a classic of the genre.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Title spotlight + Competition - "The People's Will" by Jasper Kent

I didn’t set many reading resolutions in the past couple of years mainly because I’ve noticed that each year many of these goals were never achieved. Maybe I stretched too much when I set the resolutions or perhaps some unexpected interferences prevented me in achieving them. With fewer goals in sight last year was a success in this matter and with little set for this year too I was thinking that one reading resolution I would certainly like to be able to make and fulfill is to catch up with some of the authors and series I became fond of in the past few years and for some reason were left on the bookshelves of my personal library. One of such examples is Jasper Kent’s series, “The Danilov’s Quintet”. I loved Jasper Kent’s debut novel, “Twelve”, when it was released and although it took me a while to read his second I enjoyed “Thirteen Years Later” too. However, once again I find myself behind with Jasper Kent’s novels and “The Danilov’s Quintet” series, not only that I didn’t manage to catch up with “The Third Section”, but also I don’t have much chances to read the novel in time for the fourth release of the series, “The People’s Will”, due to be published by Bantam Press UK on 23rd of May.

Reflecting on this situation I came to the conclusion that I can set a new reading resolution for 2013. Without forcing to achieve a fix number of books or risking an overvaluation of my reading potential I’ll try to catch up with some of the series I left behind lately, starting with Jasper Kent’s novels. I can try to do so in time for the release of “The People’s Will”, but like I already said the chances are slim. Anyway, I like that “The Danilov Quintet” shapes itself nicely, with another wonderful book cover made by Paul Young following the trend of the series and with an attractive synopsis for the fourth installment. Although I will certainly miss Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov there are plenty of other reasons to see where Jasper Kent’s series is going.

Turkmenistan 1881: Beneath the citadel of Geok Tepe sits a prisoner. He hasn’t moved from his chair for two years, hasn’t felt the sun on his face in more than fifty, but he is thankful for that. The city is besieged by Russian troops and soon falls. But one Russian officer has his own reason to be here. Colonel Otrepyev marches into the underground gaol, but for the prisoner it does not mean freedom, simply a new gaoler; an old friend, now an enemy. They return to Russia to meet an older enemy still.
In Saint Petersburg, the great vampire Zmyeevich waits as he has always waited. He knows he will never wield power over Tsar Aleksandr II, but the tsarevich will be a different matter. When Otrepyev delivers the prisoner into his hands, Zmyeevich will have everything he needs. Then all that need happen is for the tsar to die.
But it is not only the Otrepyev and his captive who have returned from Geok Tepe. Another soldier has followed them, one who cares nothing for the fate of the tsar, nor for Zmyeevich, nor for Otrepyev. He has only one thing on his mind – revenge.
And it’s not just Zmyeevich who seeks the death of the tsar. Aleksandr’s faltering steps towards liberty have only made the people hungry for more, and for some the final liberty will come only with the death of the dictator. They have tried and failed before, but the tsar’s luck must desert him one day. Soon he will fall victim to a group that has vowed to bring the Romanov dynasty to a violent end – a group that calls itself The People’s Will.

To celebrate the release of the new novel Jasper Kent is holding a competition on his website for a signed first edition of “The People’s Will” and a signed edition of “The Third Section”, in either English or Turkish, both prizes coming with a dedication of the winners’ choice. The competition is open until Sunday 12th May 2013 and in order to enter in the contest for one of the two prizes you need to answer one question related to “The Danilov Quintet” series. The question, the rules and the email address where the correct answer has to be sent can be found at this page on Jasper Kent’s website. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cover art - "The Bones of the Old Ones" by Howard Andrew Jones (UK edition)

Howard Andrew Jones“The Desert of Souls” is one the books I enjoyed in the past two years, but in the tumultuous times I experienced lately I was not able to properly showcase and review it. But since “The Desert of Souls” will be released by Head of Zeus in the UK on April in hardback edition and on August in paperback edition maybe I would get a chance to finally review Howard Andrew Jones’ novel. If this comes to happen is uncertain, what it is certain for me though is the appeal of the covers used by Head of Zeus for “The Desert of Souls” and “The Bones of the Old Ones”, the follow-up novel also due to be released in the UK on August. For “The Desert of Souls” Head of Zeus went for the initial book cover used by Thomas Dunne Books in the USA for the hardback edition of Howard Andrew Jones’ first novel in “The Chronicle of Sword and Sand” series. I am thrilled with the choice of the UK publisher, because the artwork made by Charles Keegan is a thing of beauty and one of the best book covers I’ve seen lately. Even more, I am really excited to see the publisher going with the same artist and the same feeling for the cover of “The Bones of the Old Ones”. I do not know the reasons behind Thomas Dunne Books’ decision to go for a different kind of cover for Howard Andrew Jones’ “The Bones of the Old Ones” and for a short while I was all right with that particular artwork. However, although not exactly a poor choice that cover pales in comparison with the artwork made by Charles Keegan for the UK edition. It is more artish, it matches the feeling set by the first cover and inflicts the sense of continuity given by a series. It is the type of book cover I like to see, connected with the story and representing something from the tale while as an artwork it also has a life of its own.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book trailer - "The Reading Lessons" by Carole Lanham

I am not a fast reader, I never was, but lately with a gathering of many things around me my free time shrank further and my reading choices have to be made more carefully. This doesn’t change the situation of the titles spotted long before their publication date and that I am eagerly looking forward to read for one reason or another. As I previously said, one such title and one of my most anticipated novels of 2013 is Carole Lanham’s “The Reading Lessons”. The main reason for my interest in “The Reading Lessons” is, as also previously stated, my love for Carole Lanham’s debut collection, “The Whisper Jar”, one of the best books I read last year and not only. There is not much time left until the release of “The Reading Lessons” – the novel is due to be published on May – but since there is still a month until then, we can enjoy the book trailer of Carole Lanham’s “The Reading Lessons”, a very nice way to whet the appetite for this intriguing novel.

Mississippi 1920: Nine year old servant, Hadley Crump, finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club. No one suspects that the bi-racial son of the cook is anything more to Lucinda than a charitable obligation, but behind closed doors, O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. What begins as a breathless investigation into the more juicy parts of literature quickly becomes a consuming and life-long habit for two people who would not otherwise be left alone together. As lynchings erupt across the South and the serving staff is slowly cut to make way for new mechanical household conveniences, Hadley begins to understand how dangerous and precarious his situation is.

The Reading Lessons follows the lives of two people born into a world that is unforgiving as a Hangman’s knot. Divided by skin color and joined by books, Hadley and Lucinda are forced to come together in the only place that will allow it, a land of printed words and dark secrets.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Title spotlight - "Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros" edited by Jason M. Waltz

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that the publishing industry is a business and like any business it is very difficult to survive without a profit. This particular and important side of publishing becomes more poignant in the case of small presses. The independent small publishing houses are doing a tremendous job in promoting wonderful and original fiction, but without a profit they would have a nigh-on-impossible chance of surviving. Unless the owner of such a small press is in Forbes top 500 billionaires, in which case profit might not be the prime concern. One of the small houses I was sad to see having an extremely tough time is Rogue Blades Entertainment. The three anthologies of short fiction published by Rogue Blades Entertainment, “Return of the Sword”, “Rage of the Behemoth” and “Demons”, brought back to life and to a new dimension the sword-and-sorcery sub-genre. The adventurous and catchy stories of heroics published by Rogue Blades Entertainment offered not only action filled tales, but also character driven fiction. Unfortunately, the publishing house didn’t do well on the market and although Rogue Blades Entertainment didn’t die it entered in a stagnant stage.

However, after three years of standing still Rogue Blades Entertainment released a new title, a non-fiction volume edited by Jason M. Waltz, “Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros”. When it comes to fantasy I am fascinated by world-building and story, but as a reader the most important elements for me in a book, indifferent of genre, are the characters. And if a book has powerful, well-constructed characters I can more easily overcome certain shortcomings of the respective volume. “Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros” can come in handy for the aspiring writers, but it is also an opportunity for the readers to take a glimpse in the backstage of the character creation. Sword and sorcery is not renowned for the emphasis on the characters, but done right it can show a side that can enhance the appeal of this sub-genre. With a foreword by Steven Erikson, this non-fiction collection gathers some important names of fantasy fiction, such as Cecilia Holland, Glen Cook, Ian C. Esslemont, Brandon Sanderson, Paul Kearney, Ari Marmell, C.L. Werner or Howard Andrew Jones, in an attempt to throw a light on the technique and process of creating fantasy heroes and heroics.

Where are your heroes? Are they trapped inside the stories in your head, eager to burst free? Are you ready to share them, to brag of them, to tell of their deeds and battles, their daring and sacrifice? Are you a storyteller ready to write the tales of your own heroes?
Fantasy heroes endure. They are embedded in our cultural fabric, dwarfing other literary figures and the mere men and women of history. Achilles and Odysseus, Gilgamesh and Beowulf. King Arthur and Robin Hood, Macbeth and Sherlock Holmes, Conan and Luke Skywalker. They dominate our legends, and tower over popular culture.
The stories we tell each other begin and end with fantasy heroes, and the 21st Century is as thoroughly captivated with them as ever. From Batman to Gandalf, Harry Potter to Tyrion Lannister, the heroes of fantasy speak to—and for—whole generations.
But what makes a fantasy hero? How do the best writers create them, and bring them to life on the page? In WRITING FANTASY HEROES some of the most successful fantasy writers of our time—including Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson, Janet Morris, Cecelia Holland, Orson Scott Card, and Glen Cook—pull back the curtain to reveal the secrets of creating heroes that live and breathe, and steal readers' hearts.
Whether you're an aspiring writer or simply a reader who loves great fantasy and strong characters, this book is for you.

“Foreword” by Steven Erikson
“The Hero in Your Blood” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
“The Heroic Will” by Cecilia Holland
“Taking a Stab at Writing Sword and Sorcery” by Ian C. Esslemont
“Writing Cinematic Fight Scenes” by Brandon Sanderson
“Watching from the Sidelines” by Cat Rambo
“Man Up: Making Your Hero an Adult” by Alex Bledsoe
“Two Sought Adventure” by Howard Andrew Jones
“Monsters – Giving the Devils their Due” by C.L. Werner
“NPCs are People Too” by Jennifer Brozek
“Tropes of the Trade” by Ari Marmell
“So You Want to Fight a War” by Paul Kearney
“Shit Happens in the Creation of Story” by Glen Cook
“The Reluctant Hero” by Orson Scott Card
“Afterword” by Jason M. Waltz

I am happy to see Rogue Blades Entertainment coming out of hibernation, making a tremendous effort with a non-fiction collection, but with an interesting subject and a wonderful cover artwork. My hope is that Rogue Blades Entertainment would not enter in hiatus again, would bring us new titles in the future, at least at the level of its previous ones, and eventually thrive.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Two new Romanian anthologies of speculative fiction - "Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead" edited by Mircea Pricăjan & "Time Travels" edited by Antuza Genescu

Besides Final Frontier, the book fair that looks pretty much like a speculative fiction convention I talked yesterday, there are other signs of an invigoration of the Romanian science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. There are plenty of printed and online magazines dedicated to the speculative fiction and there are efforts of bringing the community together, but what I find extremely encouraging is the growth in number of the anthologies published in Romania and featuring local writers. Until recently you could count such local short stories collections on the fingers of one hand, but lately this situation seems to change, the Romanian writers have more and more opportunities to be published in a professional assembled anthology. The latest two, “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead” edited by Mircea Pricăjan and “Time Travels” edited by Antuza Genescu.

If the speculative fiction is a small niche horror has a worrisome coverage on the Romanian market. And I always find extremely odd the position in which this wonderful genre finds itself here. We have an extremely rich folklore, mythology and traditions involving or touching the elements of horror, but the genre is seen as pariah in Romania. As a matter of fact, until two or three years ago, you would not see a local writer going nowhere near the genre. If I am not mistaken, Oliviu Crâznic took the plunge with his gothic novel “…and at the end remained the nightmare” in 2010, but other than that the publications have been sporadic. The same Oliviu Crâznic put together a gothic anthology, the first such collection of Romanian horror short stories I am aware of, “Beyond the Night. 12 Faces of the Gothic”, and now a second one saw the light of day, Mircea Pricăjan’s “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead”.

On the far right, yours truly, at the launch of “Zombies” Photo © Ona Frantz
I had the pleasure and honor to be invited at the launch of “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead” and talk a bit about this anthology and as I said at the time I am not much of the fan of zombie fiction, but I am thrilled to see a Romanian zombie anthology. I personally find the zombie element overused and exhausted and it is a bit tiresome to see so many anthologies and novels published each year with nothing new brought to the genre. However, despite my reluctance toward this sub-genre and even before reading “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead” my curiosity was picked by the possibilities offered by the local particularities and writers that could actually bring something fresh to this genre. With all the honesty I have to say that all of my expectations were surpassed. It is true that I could more easily relate to the Romanian locations, traditions and uniqueness that are common for all the stories of the collection, besides the zombie element, of course. But that isn’t the most impressive feat of “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead”. Impressive is that each story offers something new, the characters are the ones that take the central stage and zombies are part of the props and setting enhancing the story without becoming the bothersome and stereotypical element of so many other stories of the sub-genre. In this aspect the anthology reminded me of Alden Bell’s “The Reapers are the Angels”, a zombie novel but where the story of life is more important than the element of the living dead. Here is the table of contents of Mircea Pricăjan’s “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead”, with the hope that I’ll be able to put my thoughts in a proper review of the anthology sooner than later.

“Foreword” by Mircea Pricăjan
“An ordinary day after the end of the world” by Laura Sorin
“The moon always sets into the sea” by Răzvan T. Coloja
“Good night, Mihai!” by Ioana Vişan
“Hundres of small hearts like hundreds of suns caught beneath the earth” by A.R. Deleanu
“Coming from the volcanoes” by Tudor Călin Zarojanui
“Close to Antonio” by Narcisa Stoica
“Like mongooses in a Pacific Ocean island...” by Liviu Radu
“In week-end you are never alone” by Cristina Nemerovschi
“Back into death” by Oliviu Crâznic
“The Graves” by Florian Nan
“Len, who petrifies the evil” by Antuza Genescu
“Apocalypse after Romanians” by Florin Irimia
“The harvesting” by George Lazăr
“The hunger” by Laura Sorin
“The Dacian winter” by Tiberiu-Virgil Popescu
“The apprentice” by Ciprian Mitoceanu
“In a cheap novel her name would have been Mary” by Roxana Brînceanu
“Something written by Cousin Ina” by Andrei Gaceff
“Father and son” by Felix Tzele
“Infested” by Diana Alzner

If horror is the poor relative of the Romanian speculative fiction, science fiction is definitely in command. Even in the restrictive years of the Communist regime science fiction fared better than fantasy and horror. One of the promoters of the modern local science fiction short stories is SRSFF (The Romanian Society of Science Fiction and Fantasy), which published three anthologies so far, “Other shores” in 2009, “Pangaea” in 2010 and “Venus” in 2011. This year SRSFF together with Nemira Publishing House released a new science fiction anthology, “Time Travels”, edited by Antuza Genescu. However, as much as it pleases me to see such an anthology being printed I cannot remark the abominable cover of this collection. I don’t want to be mean, but I believe that Nemira Publishing House needs to put more effort when it comes to the book covers of their speculative fiction collection. It feels like they are trying to chase away the readers from these titles not to allure them towards them. The potential is there, Nemira publishes in new wonderful editions the novels of the lady of Romanian crime fiction, Rodica Ojog-Brașoveanu, and the covers of these books have appeal. They are not masterpieces, but neither are they any match for those of the speculative fiction collection. But enough of that, I’ll avert my eyes and go straight to the table of contents, which is far more important.

“Between sky and earth...” by Liviu Radu
“Cronogenesis” by George Lazăr
“Transparent and superconductor” by Cristian-Mihail Teodorescu
“The Omega Factor” by Aurel Cărăşel
“Rendez-vous point at +3000” by Ioana Vişan
“Paris, 1941...” by Ştefana Czeller
“The last reportage” by Sergiu Someşan
“Morning with interferences” by Daniel Haiduc
“The lost nation” by Mircea Liviu Goga
“The zero incident” by Silviu Genescu

Monday, April 1, 2013

Final Frontier, the Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Fair

“Harap Alb goes on” © Cristina Ghidoveanu
Between 23rd and 24th March, at Bucharest, the third edition of the Final Frontier, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Fair, took place and this year I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend this wonderful event. Final Frontier took place in a small location, but on the overall this aspect has little relevance. The important thing is that the Romanian speculative fiction in its entirety moves forward. The atmosphere was very pleasant and friendly, the writers, editors, publishers and readers shared their thoughts and changed impressions and ideas. I was thrilled to see together the younger generation of speculative fiction writers and the established ones, people interested in the local science fiction and fantasy and new titles being launched, both local and foreign, on the Romanian market. The comic book, otherwise heavily struggling, shows promising signs with a new wonderful series, “Harap Alb goes on”, based on the well known Romanian fairy tale and featuring old and new adventures of the beloved hero and his companionship. Also, at this edition the presence of the Hungarian publishing house Ad Astra gave an international dimension to the event.

“The Nautilus Effect” & “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead” © Silviu Gheorghe aka Assassin CG
Millennium Books, a landmark when it comes to the encouragement and medium offered to the local talent, came with two new titles, Ioana Vișan’s volume of short fiction, “The Nautilus Effect”, and the Romanian zombie anthology edited by Mircea Pricăjan, “Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead”. Another volume of short stories by a Romanian author, Florentin Haidamac’s “The SF Clinic”, was launched this time by the Cygnus Publishing House. Also a Romanian writer but with a volume published in English, Şerban Andrei Mazilu with “The Angellove Society: Crux”, had his novel presented again for the local readership. Tritonic Publishing House brought a new novel by Monica Ramirez, better known for her crime fiction, this time a cross between mystery and fantasy, “Double Life at Venice”. Paladin, the new publishing house specialized in science fiction and fantasy, launched Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” in a new edition. I would like to remark that this volume, as those already published by Paladin, comes in exceptional graphic conditions, rarely seen on our market. Nemira launched the Romanian edition of Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” while Editura Trei came with Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow”. During the two days of Final Frontier there were a few open panels talking about the general situation of the book market and the speculative fiction niche in Romania. “How can we convince the readers?”, “Writing comic book scripts”, “Translators-coauthors” and “The Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines” touched interesting, but very sensible subjects.

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, Romanian edition © Silviu Gheorghe aka Assassin CG
Overall, this edition of Final Frontier left me truly optimistic about the future of Romanian speculative fiction. Of course, by the look of Final Frontier everything on the local speculative fiction might seem heavenly and rosy, but the reality is far from it. There still are voices and people who wage petty wars for pretentious causes. It still springs forth from time to time an atmosphere of belligerence appropriate only for brushing up false super-egos. And since these two phrases gives them too much coverage already let’s leave them aside and hope that they’ll make their presence felt less and less in the future. Because, after all, the third edition of Final Frontier was a successful event, a celebration of speculative fiction that brought together writers, editors and readers from all over the country in a friendliest and pleasant manner. I am convinced that this wonderful initiative would only grow in the future editions and I personally will do my best to attend as many as possible.