Friday, February 26, 2016

Cover art - "The Mountain of Kept Memory" by Rachel Neumeier & "Twelve Kings of Sharakhai" by Bradley P. Beaulieu (French edition)

I cannot conceal my admiration for Marc Simonetti’s talent and art, not that I am attempting such a thing. Each new artwork and book cover born from Marc Simonetti’s brushes tends to lose me in contemplation and each one manages to fascinate me in one way or another. I have two fresh examples to keep the fire of my appreciation for the work of this wonderful artist burn brighter, the covers for Rachel Neumeier’s “The Mountain of Kept Memory” (coming in November from Saga Press) and the French edition of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s “Twelve Kings in Sharakhai” (“Les Douze Rois de Sharakhaï” published by Bragelonne). Both share the same design, one that Marc Simonetti used before, the perspective over a city. In the case of “Twelve Kings in Sharakhai” Marc Simonetti’s artwork is similar to the US cover only to have an ampler vision and a more encompassing perspective. On both these covers the panorama envisioned by the artist and his playing on the light have the effect of stirring the viewer’s curiosity and the desire to visit these places, at least with the help of imagination until the books open further these worlds. There is one more thing stimulating the desire to discover more about these places, the characters. Not only do we see the cities from a distant witness point of view, but from the way the characters are positioned on the cover we share that vision with them too, moving us closer to the scene and creating an initial connection with the personages. And the characters, like the settings, remain to be discovered within the pages of the respective books.

In this gorgeous fantasy in the spirit of Guy Gavriel Kay and Robin McKinley, a prince and a princess must work together to save their kingdom from outside invaders…and dangers within.
Long ago the Kieba, last goddess in the world, raised up her mountain in the drylands of Carastind. Ever since then she has dwelled and protected the world from unending plagues and danger…
Gulien Madalin, heir to the throne of Carastind, finds himself more interested in ancient history than the tedious business of government and watching his father rule. But Gulien suspects that his father has offended the Kieba so seriously that she has withdrawn her protection from the kingdom. Worse, he fears that Carastind’s enemies suspect this as well.
Then he learns that he is right. And invasion is imminent.
Meanwhile Gulien’s sister Oressa has focused on what’s important: avoiding the attention of her royal father while keeping track of all the secrets at court. But when she overhears news about the threatened invasion, she’s shocked to discover what her father plans to give away in order to buy peace.
But Carastind’s enemies will not agree to peace at any price. They intend to not only conquer the kingdom, but also cast down the Kieba and steal her power. Now, Gulien and Oressa must decide where their most important loyalties lie, and what price they are willing to pay to protect the Kieba, their home, and the world.

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cover art - "Year's Best Weird Fiction, Volume 3" edited by Simon Strantzas and Michael Kelly

When Undertow Publications began to publish a yearly collection of best weird fiction I welcomed this project with my arms opened wide. My previous experiences with the publisher and the approached niche of its “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” made this new yearly anthology very attractive from my point of view. Now, it can be argued that a year’s best of anything might not be the best for everyone, but I always try to remember that such selections are subjective to the editor’s tastes and they’re meant to be received with an opened mind. As it is meant for the genre within such projects lie. Because, after all, there is only one true category that matters in the end, that of good fiction, the one that helps us expand our horizons despite the genre in which we would like to catalogue it. Although “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” has only two volumes released so far it is a project I would certainly like to see filling my bookshelves for many years to come.

True, I liked some stories more than others, from my personal perspective I questioned a couple of selections, but like I’ve already said I accept completely the editor’s tastes and choices. And it is exactly here where this year’s best anthology scored good points, each year Michael Kelly, the series editor, works on this collection together with a different guest editor, the first was Laird Barron, the second Kathe Koja, this year Simon Strantzas and the next Helen Marshall. Such an approach makes me expect the unexpected, each volume offers something different from the others. There are other wonderful year’s best collections out there and although I love what their editors did with the entire series I feel that, more or less, a pattern surfaces over time. Nothing wrong with it, but by working with a different editor at each volume “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” acquires a unique flavor.

As it does through the cover artworks. There is something different about each one of them and I’ve become to anticipate the release of the next cover with excitement. This year’s selection didn’t disappoint at all. I was familiar with Beatriz Martin Vidal’s art for some time now and seeing her work on the cover of “Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 3” brought me great joy. It shouldn’t be such a rare thing, Beatriz Martin Vidal is a very talented artist and looking over her website and Deviantart page you’ll see why. The vivid colors, the light and shadow, her imagination are marvelous traits and because of them and not only I am mesmerized by her art pieces. As is the case with this cover, a beautiful artwork that’s a feast for the eyes and that is, I admit, my favorite of the three covers of “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” so far.

Since we are at it, here is also the table of contents of “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” third volume, with the possibility of one more addition later on:

“The Strangers” by Robert Aickman (The Strangers and Other Writings)
“Rangel” by Matthew M. Bartlett (Rangel)
“Little Girls in Bone Museums” by Sadie Bruce (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2015)
“Violet is the Color of Your Energy” by Nadia Bulkin (She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles)
“Fetched” by Ramsey Campbell (Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones, as “Nightmare”)
“Guest” by Brian Conn (The Bestiary edited by AnnVanderMeer)
“The Marking” by Kristi DeMeester (Three-lobed Burning Eye #27)
“Seaside Town” by Brian Evenson (Aickman’s Heirs edited by Simon Strantzas)
“Julie” by L.S. Johnson (Strange Tales V edited by Rosalie Parker)
“Rabbit, Cat, Girl” by Rebecca Kuder (XIII: Stories of Transformation edited by Mark Teppo)
“Strange Currents” by Tim Lebbon (Innsmouth Nightmares edited by Lois H. Gresh)
“The Rooms Are High” by Reggie Oliver (The Sea of Blood)
“The Seventh Wave” by Lynda E. Rucker (Terror Tales of the Ocean edited by Paul Finch)
“Blood” by Robert Shearman (Seize the Night edited by Christopher Golden)
“Loveliness Like a Shadow” by Christopher Slatsky (Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales)
“Honey Moon” by D.P. Watt (A Soliloquy for Pan edited by Mark Beech)
“The Devil Under the Maison Blue” by Michael Wehunt (The Dark #10)
“Orange Dogs” by Marian Womack (
“Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line” by Genevieve Valentine (The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Table of contents - "Defying Doomsday" edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

Last year, I had the pleasure to host a guest post, “What Flavour of Apocalypse”, by Tsana Dolichva during the crowdfunding campaign for “Defying Doomsday”, an anthology she was about to edit together with Holly Kench. After the success of the said crowdfunding campaign the reading and selection process started and now we are moving one step closer to the publication of “Defying Doomsday” as Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench revealed the stories chosen out of the 177 submitted tales for this apocalypse-survival anthology. “Defying Doomsday” is due to be released by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016.

Teens form an all-girl band in the face of an impending comet.

A woman faces giant spiders to collect silk and protect her family.

New friends take their radio show on the road in search of plague survivors.
A man seeks love in a fading world.
How would you survive the apocalypse?
Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive - it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.
In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley, Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K Evangelista.

“And the Rest of Us Wait” by Corinne Duyvis
“To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath” 
by Stephanie Gunn
“Something in the Rain” 
by Seanan McGuire
“Did We Break the End of the World?”
 by Tansy Rayner Roberts
“In the Sky with Diamonds” 
by Elinor Caiman Sands
“Two Somebodies Go Hunting” by Rivqa Rafael
“Given Sufficient Desperation”
 by Bogi Takács
“Selected Afterimages of the Fading” 
by John Chu
“Five Thousand Squares” 
by Maree Kimberley
“Portobello Blind” 
by Octavia Cade
“Tea Party” 
by Lauren E Mitchell
by Thoraiya Dyer
“Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” 
by Samantha Rich
“No Shit” 
by K Evangelista
“I Will Remember You” 
by Janet Edwards

Monday, February 15, 2016

2016 Ditmar Awards Preliminary Ballot

The preliminary ballot for the 2016 Ditmar Awards has been released. The winners will be announced during the 2016 Australian National SF Convention, Contact, due to take place between March 25th and 28th at the Hotel Jen in Brisbane.

 Best Novel
“The Dagger's Path” by Glenda Larke (Orbit)
“Day Boy” by Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)
“Graced” by Amanda Pillar (Momentum)
“Lament for the Afterlife” by Lisa L. Hannett (ChiZine Publications)
“Zeroes” by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Simon and Schuster)

Best Novella or Novelette
"The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood" by Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
"Fake Geek Girl" by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Review of Australian Fiction, volume 14, issue 4)
"Hot Rods" by Cat Sparks (Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy 58)
"The Miseducation of Mara Lys" by Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
"Of Sorrow and Such" by Angela Slatter (
"The Wages of Honey" by Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story
"2B" by Joanne Anderton (Insert Title Here, FableCroft Publishing)
"The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner" by Alan Baxter (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2015)
"A Hedge of Yellow Roses" by Kathleen Jennings (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)
"Look how cold my hands are" by Deborah Biancotti (Cranky Ladies of History, FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collected Work
Bloodlines” edited by Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications)
“Cherry Crow Children” by Deborah Kalin (Twelfth Planet Press)
“Cranky Ladies of History” edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
“Letters to Tiptree” edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
“Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories” by Robert Hood (IFWG Publishing Australia)

Best Artwork
Rovina Cai, cover art for "Tom, Thom" (
Kathleen Jennings, cover art for “Bloodlines” (Ticonderoga Publications)
Kathleen Jennings, cover art and internal artwork for “Cranky Ladies of History” (FableCroft Publishing)
Shauna O'Meara, cover for “The Never Never Land”
Shaun Tan, illustrations in “The Singing Bone” (Allen & Unwin)

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
The Angriest, Grant Watson
The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best Fan Writer
Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
Foz Meadows, for body of work
Ian Mond, for body of work
Alexandra Pierce for body of work
Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
Grant Watson, for body of work

Best Fan Artist
Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Illustration Friday series
Belinda Morris, for body of work, including Belinda Illustrates

Best New Talent
Rivqa Rafael
T R Napper
DK Mok
Liz Barr

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
Letters to Tiptree, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Rereading the Empire Trilogy series, Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
"Sara Kingdom dies at the end", Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Companion Piece (Mad Norwegian Press)
"SF Women of the 20th Century", Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Squeeing over Supergirl series, David McDonald, and Tehani Wessely

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Undertow Publications' 2016 subscription

I admire greatly the work, dedication and innovation put together by small, independent book publishers. I learned over time that more often than not such publishers take me outside my safety zone, push me towards the discovery of new, engaging fiction and talented writers. Undertow Publications is one such small press, with quite an impressive body of work that it’s not easy to ignore. Publishing and supporting mostly weird, short fiction Undertow Publications started with the “Shadows & Tall Trees” magazine that saw the appearance of 6 issues, followed with “Year’s Best Weird Fiction”, which will see its third volume published this year, and anthologies or author collections of short stories such as “Aickman’s Heirs”, edited by Simon Strantzas, and V.H. Leslie’s “Skein and Bone”. This year Undertow Publications plans to add 4 more books to its catalogue, the already mentioned “Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 3”, coming on October, and three collections of short stories, Eric Schaller’s “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air” (scheduled for February), Sunny Moraine’s “Singing With all My Skin and Bone” (due to be released on June) and D.P. Watt’s “Almost Insentient, Almost Divine” (published on July). I must admit that I already own most of Undertow Publications’ back catalogue, with the majority of them being read, and that the future releases are very tempting for me. They are even more appealing when taking into consideration the subscription offered by Undertow Publications, pre-ordering all the 4 trade editions of these books comes with a 25% discount and that means 69$ for all the 4 volumes and the shipping, worldwide, is included. If you are interested or want to take a further look at this offer you can find all the details on the Undertow Publications’ website.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 reading year finally under way

2015 proved to be extremely busy, it leaned so heavily on the busy side that it stretched thin my energy, motivation and inspiration. Sadly, 2016 wasn’t up for a good start either. Actually, if I had any quarrels with the past year I didn’t anticipate the beginning of the new one. Still, it also brought revitalization, dealing with some difficult situations I regained the great pleasure of sitting down and settle on a reading, the desire of talking about all the good books and the authors who write them. Not that I lost this passion, but I discovered that for the past several months it dwindled. So, although the first month of this new year didn’t bring many reasons for optimism I find myself ready to talk again about the great world of speculative fiction. I don’t have any specific goals in mind, for the time being I just wish to set the wheels in motion again and detect where this path leads me. I hope you had an excellent start of the year though and will see each other around here as much as possible.