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Science Fiction & Fantasy

Exclusive Q&A with Marissa Meyer, Author of The Lunar Chronicles

Fan at the Baltimore Book FestivalMarissa Meyer, New York Times best-selling author of The Lunar Chronicles, shares personal insights on touring, meeting fans, and writing. Meyer's fourth book in the series, "Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story," has just been released.

You've been on tour for all of your books so far -- CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS and now FAIREST. In fact, your tour never seems to end! What is your favorite thing about touring? What is the most difficult part of touring?

The best part of touring is meeting fans, and seeing how excited some of them are to meet ME! It never stops being surreal. Also, hotel room service is a nice perk. The most difficult part is being away from my family, though, especially on this tour. You can feel like you're missing out on a lot of stuff at home after a while.

 

Orlando fans in cosplayFans of The Lunar Chronicles -- known as Lunartics!--have been growing by leaps and bounds. What do you believe sets your fans apart from fans of other book series?

Stained glass Cinder

I am constantly SO impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity that my fans show!  Since the very beginning, when CINDER came out, I've had fans coming to the events in cosplay and bringing me totally awesome fanart and gifts. One of my all-time favorites was from a southern California fan who made an AMAZING stained glass art piece of the Cinder shoe. I couldn't believe she gave it to me!

 

Treadmill deskYou travel so much for the Lunar Chronicles. When do you write? Where do you write?

I try to maintain some sort of schedule when I'm at home, writing about 4-6 hours a day, though it can vary. I do a fair amount of work on my treadmill desk at home, and I also love to write at cafes and restaurants. I spend many afternoons with local writing friends - it adds a nice social aspect to an otherwise solitary job! What I'm particularly excited for, though, is that my husband is building me a writing studio in our backyard, which will be like a little dream cottage. I can't wait.

Guest Post by Tony Wolf Author of Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons

Tony_Wolf_Suffrajitsu_300Author Tony Wolf describes the interplay of fiction and strange-but-true history in his graphic novel trilogy, Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons. Inspired by a true story. No - really.

I was sitting in a sound booth deep within National Public Radio’s Navy Pier studio in Chicago, being interviewed by a journalist from the BBC’s World Service. Our subject was the “hidden history” of the suffragette Amazons; the most radical of Edwardian England’s women’s rights activists, who served as a secret society of martial arts-trained bodyguards and commando agents for Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and other suffragette leaders.

After several minutes of conversation, the interviewer asked:

“Did - did they actually engage in physical combat?”

And I replied:

“Oh yes. Yes, frequently. That was, sort of, what they were for.”

Then came a pregnant pause as the interviewer attempted to reconcile his notion of Edwardian English ladies with street fighting riot grrrls. After the pause, most people tend to ask either “Why do I not know about this!?” or “When’s the movie coming out!?”, but he stuck gamely to his script.

(As it happens, there actually is a movie coming out – Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep, is due to be released in September of 2015.)  

When I start to describe my graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons as a work of “alternative history”, people often assume that the core idea – an undercover team of suffragette ninjas – is the product of artistic license. No, no … that bit really happened! 

Although the American suffrage movement was largely led by pacifists, England’s radical suffragettes engaged in acts of protest by mass vandalism and even bombing and arson attacks on unoccupied buildings. They went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that no-one was physically hurt in their protest actions, but they were also committed to the ideals of self-defense. Since their leaders were effectively outlaws and fugitives, the Amazons employed all manner of defensive tactics, including disguise and decoy strategies as well as brawling with police constables when necessary.

Kitty Marshall, the author of a sadly still-unpublished 1947 memoir called Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, is the only member of the real-life Amazon team about whom we have any real detail (they were a secret society, after all). We know about their exploits, but not much about the women themselves.

The Suffrajitsu trilogy, however, takes place in the Foreworld – the alternative history established by writers Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo and their collaborators, who have produced an impressive shared-world of novels, short stories and graphic novels. For that reason, I was free to exercise some artistic license and to populate the Foreworld version of the team with my favorite Edwardian-era femmes fatale. 

Florence “Flossie” Le Mar, for example, was a New Zealand-born athlete and entertainer whose specialty act was called The Hooligan and the Lady. A passionate advocate for women’s self-defense, Flossie toured vaudeville theatres with her husband Joe (who played the role of the Hooligan on stage), demonstrating and lecturing on the virtues of martial arts training for girls and women. 

Flossie also produced a book – The Life and Adventures of Miss Florence Le Mar, the World’s Famous Jujitsu Girl – which is one of the rarest and, frankly, strangest self-defense manuals ever written. It includes polemic essays, illustrated lessons and a series of very tall tales describing her adventures as a globe-trotting dispenser of jujitsu justice, bringing down opium-smugglers in Sydney, crooked gamblers in New York City and an English “lunatic” who believed that he was a bear. 

Not too great a stretch of the imagination, then, to make Flossie Le Mar one of the Amazons of the Foreworld.

S.G. Redling: My Book in 15 Seconds

S.G. Redling shares an overview of her new book Ourselves in 15 seconds.

 

Guest Post by Theresa Kay Author of Broken Skies

Theresa_Kay_Broken_Skies_Science_FictionTheresa Kay, author of Broken Skies, highlights her favorite science fiction and young adult crossover titles.

Young adult science fiction is a genre filled with dynamic characters, vast and unique worlds, and compelling stories. As a reader, it’s a genre I gravitate towards and I’d love to share some YA sci-fi novels that I’ve found cross over well for adult readers.

  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown — This was a recent read for me and one that, once the story got going, I couldn’t put down.  Set on Mars, the story follows Darrow as he rebels against a corrupt society riddled with injustice and prejudice. It has a fantasy-like feel to it in the latter two-thirds of the book as the characters form alliances, carry out sieges, storm castles, and generally battle it out.
  • The Mindjack Series by Susan Kaye Quinn — This sci-fi series is written by an actual (former) rocket scientist. How cool is that? Quinn takes the idea of fitting in and gives it a sci-fi spin as her main character, Kira, is shunned for her inability to read minds in a world where telepathy is normal. However, Kira soon learns that although she might not be able to read minds, she can control them.
  • Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart — I had the pleasure of reading this book under its original title, Shattered Veil. The story includes flying skirmishes, daring rescues, interesting tech, and great world-building. It’s centered on Aris, a young girl who initially sets out to follow her childhood sweetheart. Instead, she ends up finding her own strength and realizing there’s much more to her world.
  • The Last Year series by Trisha Leigh —  A post-apocalyptic dystopian world with oppressive alien overlords? Sign me up! Leigh weaves together a careful balance of dystopia and sci-fi, populating her world with a blend of well-developed and relatable characters. The other humans are mind-controlled robots, but Althea, the main character, can still think for herself. She goes on to discover just how different she is and how important those differences are to the future of Earth.
  • Timebound by Rysa Walker — This was my first purchase through Kindle First, and I couldn't have been happier with it. It's a complex tale involving time travel, alternate histories, cults, and the Chicago's World Fair of 1893. I was so effectively drawn into Kate’s time traveling adventure that I had to take a break from writing my own book in order to continue reading.

When I Won the Lottery

81Gcz2pRU7L._SL1500_Douglas E. Richards, shares with us his journey to becoming a New York Times best-selling author and his approach to adding vivid details to his novels.

I may be the luckiest man on earth. I have a master’s degree in genetic engineering, and several years ago left a lucrative position as a biotechnology executive to pursue my dream of writing, penning a science fiction thriller called Wired. Several major publishers loved it—but just not enough for them to take a financial risk with an unknown writer. So after years of fighting the good fight, and of near misses, I threw the manuscript in a drawer, gave up on my dream, and returned to biotech.

But a few months later I decided to publish the novel myself on Amazon. It couldn’t have been simpler to do. And why not? I had put considerable effort into the novel, and it would mean a lot to me if even a few people managed to find it.  

And that’s when I won the lottery (and left biotech for a second time). Because WIRED went viral, spending five weeks on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, a testament to my brilliant marketing strategy of doing absolutely nothing and scratching my head in wonder as I watched it all happen (I call it the “sit on your hands and hope you get really, really lucky” strategy).

Suffice it to say that even a handful of novels later, not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for being able to pursue my dream, or grateful to those readers who continue to support my work.

Continue reading "When I Won the Lottery" »

Characters to Lighten the Way

91SScpHUvYL._SL1500_R.L. Naquin, author of "Demons in My Driveway", sheds some light on the characters from her Monster Haven series.

I didn’t set out to be funny when I began the Monster Haven series. The story lines themselves can get pretty dark, though, so the characters keep things from getting too angst-ridden and depressing. They lighten the mood.

Book one, Monster in My Closet, dives right into the weirdness. Zoey grabs a toilet brush as a weapon on her way down the hall to confront an intruder. To her surprise, she finds Maurice, the closet monster she was terrified of as a child. Reading the newspaper. And baking muffins. Why? He’s currently homeless and needs a place to live. We’re also introduced to a pygmy dragon with a cold, a skunk ape who smells like flowers and a family of brownies setting up house in the linen closet.

In the second book, Pooka in My Pantry, the pooka looks a bit like Danny DeVito and hates wearing pants. Only Zoey can see and hear him, which makes for some funny moments when other people are in the room. At the office, Zoey has to stop her best friend from sitting in the waiting pooka’s lap. Friends don’t let friends get felt up by the supernatural. Especially when the supernatural’s not wearing pants.

Stakes get higher by book three, Fairies in My Fireplace, but nobody can be serious giving a dog a bath—even when the dog is a hellhound with a nasty case of mange. Sponges fly, the hellhound’s splash zone is huge, then THUNK. Somebody shoots a tranquilizer dart into a passing thunderbird. The enormous bird lands on Zoey’s VW Bug, squashing the car flat. Kam—a djinn recently escaped from her master—pokes the unconscious thunderbird and informs it that it can’t park there. She wasn’t helping with the dog wash, by the way. She didn’t want to ruin her dress—a replica of Pat Benatar’s costume from the ’80s “Love Is a Battlefield” video.

Golem in My Glovebox was tough to lighten up. Creepy little girl, gruesome deaths, mind control. I had to bring in some extra craziness. In one of my favorite scenes, Zoey and her reaper boyfriend, Riley, meet with an O.G.R.E. squad—the police of the Hidden world—in a skeezy bar in the middle of nowhere. Included in the group are the world’s shortest giant, the world’s tallest dwarf, two actual ogres and a siren with social anxiety disorder. Gris, the government official they brought along—a pint-size golem hiding in Zoey’s magic handbag—and the O.G.R.E. foreman, Frankie the Imp, run off to the men’s room to negotiate. Zoey is left to wonder about her life choices and whether she’ll ever see her purse again.

Book five, Demons in My Driveway, releases soon, so I can’t give away too much without spoiling it. But Zoey and her team are trying to avoid the zombie apocalypse. The harbingers of the apocalypse come chanting up her driveway, Hidden creatures failing in their attempt to appear human: a female gargoyle in a blue polyester pantsuit, a satyr in shirt and trousers, a harpy in an overcoat. They’re not fooling anybody.

The final book in the series, Phoenix in My Fortune, isn’t out until next March. But I’ll tell you a secret: it begins with a bucket of purple house paint, a pygmy dragon and rainbow-toe socks.

I still don’t set out to be funny. But apparently, my mind is a ridiculous place.

My Dreams in the Witch House

A1QXspo7O6L._SL1500_J.D. Horn, author of the upcoming new release The Void, gives us an exclulsive look into the witches from his popular Witching Savannah series.

In The Line, first book in the Witching Savannah series, our heroine tells us that her family moved to Savannah shortly after the end of the American Civil War. Whenever someone asks me where the Taylors lived before that point, I tell a little lie, a lie that conveys a deeper truth. In the actual backstory, the family came to Savannah directly from Ireland. The lie I enjoy telling, though, is that they came from Providence, RI, beloved home of H.P. Lovecraft. Why lie about something I’ve made up anyway? Because the deeper truth is that my witches have much more in common with Keziah Mason, the titular witch of Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House, than with any of the other popular fictional witches. 

The magic in the world of the Witching Savannah series has many roots, but the deepest is firmly anchored in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. (Many readers would have picked up on my affectionate homage to Brown Jenkin in Witching Savannah’s second book, The Source.) In my fancy, Lovecraft’s deities, be they the “Outer Gods,” the “Great Old Ones,” or “Elder Gods,” merged together with Zacharia Sitchin’s Anunnaki and Erich Von Däniken’s ancient alien astronauts. These entities melded in my mind to form my version of the old gods, the creatures who meddled in our evolution and gave rise to both witches and those of us who have no magic. After the great rebellion, the line, a magical web of energy, was created by witches to protect us all from these demon gods.

But Lovecraft isn’t the sole inspiration behind the magic of Witching Savannah. A few historical personages also found their way into the brew. Physically beautiful, but spiritually monstrous Maria Orsic, leader of the Vril Gessellschaft, an occult organization that took its name from a work by Edward Bulwer-Lytton—yes, he of the dark and stormy night—plays a role in the backstory, as does a certain unnamed American aviation hero, whose public good guy image covered many dark truths.

The final mystical ingredients were supplied by Jack Parsons, the rocket scientist and occultist, who blew himself up allegedly while performing a magical rite. Parsons was once a protégé of Aleister Crowley and best friend of L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology. In life, Parsons attempted to bridge the gap between the occult and science; for me Parsons provided the link between the worlds of Occult Fiction and Science Fiction.

 

 

Exclusive Q&A with Jim Butcher

The newest graphic novel from the Dresden Files series, "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry" is available now. The prolific author talks to about working in a visual medium, cosplay, and what we can expect for the future of the series.Warcry

Q1: Did the artist nail the images of your characters that you had in your head? Was it fun to be part of that creative process?

Jim Butcher: I'm a writer.  In my head, the characters' actual appearance tends to be a little amorphous--to me, it's their internal characteristics that I see most sharply and completely.  That said, I love seeing visual representations of my characters.  Whether its professional art or fan art, it never stops being a thrill to see my characters represented.

I've had a good time being a part of the process at Dynamite.  It gives me a chance to tell different kinds of stories, with a much different emphasis.  And besides, it's a freaking comic book!  How could that not be fun to help make?

Q2: What do you think of fans cosplaying your characters?

JB: I love it!  Seeing fans cosplay your characters is how you know you've made it. :)  My only problem is that I just don't look like any of the characters from the Dresden Files, so I can't cosplay them.  But everyone else gets to have fun, and that's the important thing.

Q3: What can you tell us about Harry’s fate towards the end of the series? What kinds of challenges should we look forward to?

Warcry_sketch1JB: I can tell you that I'm not going to tell you that.  Duh.

The next book, Peace Talks, is gonna be all about a large peace summit in Chicago between all the supernatural powers.  I'm sure that everyone will settle down and have a nice reasonable talk, and then a light supper, and then some friendly social time in which they'll all sing together and get along just fine, and in no way find a way to blame Harry Dresden for all of their troubles.

Q4: Are there any clues you can give us about what Mab’s true intentions are for Harry?

Well, I can tell you that Mab never lies outright.  She'll lie by omission, lie by telling you true things that mislead you, lie by allowing others to misinform you, lie by allowing you to leap to assumptions that are entirely wrong, but she never lies outright.  Everything she's told Harry that she wants from him is true.  But you can be fairly sure that she hasn't told Harry everything.

Q5:  Do you ever get sick of writing in the Dresden universe? Are you excited for The Cinder Spires series?

JB: I do get sick of that guy at times, but that's why I write other projects.  Once I've gotten to spend some time in another world, going on other adventures, I'm always happy to get back in the saddle with Dresden.  The Cinder Spires is already the longest book I've ever written, and I'm not quite done yet.  I'm very excited to be building a new world and putting together a new set of stories which are tailored for it.

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A Brief History of Materials Magic

81LN+EsvHVL._SL1500_Charlie Holmbergauthor of the new Paper Magician Series, gives us an exclusive look at her unique magic system in The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician novels.

Excision, the use of flesh and blood as a medium for spells, is by far the oldest materials magic. Its roots dig deep into the soil of pre-history. Because of this, Excision spells are spoken in a language nearly impossible to translate. Historic linguists—at least, those willing to study the taboo subject of Excision—believe the old tongue has a few similarities with ancient Sumerian, but unfortunately not enough to derive clear translations.

Excision is far more complex than any other materials magic. It’s theorized that this is because the material, humans, is the only organic substance known to be castable, and therefore vastly more complex than other bondable materials. Due to its violent nature, Excision is illegal in most countries and often subject to capital punishment. The few men and women permitted by government to learn this “dark art” for purposes of healing and law enforcement are called Binders, and their existence is a secret closely guarded from the general public.  

Pyromancy, or fire magic, is also incredibly old. There is no known date for its discovery, though historians believe it was first used 7,500–7,800 years ago in Africa. The oldest written records for Pyromancy are found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Romans are credited for expanding Pyromancy, especially pertaining to warfare. Early documentation details its use in the Roman-Sabine wars. The Romans, for obvious reasons, were quite proprietary with their fire magic. However, Flavius Odoacer, the first King of Italy, is at least partly responsible for sharing spells with Germanic tribes sometime around 470 AD, ultimately contributing to the final fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The next materials magic to be discovered was Folding: magic cast through paper. Folding originated in Japan during the late Heian period, about 1100 AD. Animations of Folded paper, or ikite iru origami, were the first spells documented. Folding spread to Europe in the sixteenth century after Portugal’s early interactions with Japan, and spells involving cutting, tearing, and drawing on paper emerged in the centuries following.

Despite the early use of glass in many ancient cultures, Gaffing wasn’t mastered until 1304 AD in China—most likely brought about by competition with Japan. An early example of Gaffing was found in the Shenyang Imperial Palace, where mirrors were disguised as windows and doors with spells that created the illusion of wealth beyond the frame.

Siping, or rubber magic, was discovered in 1850 by Englishman Thomas Hancock, founder of the British rubber industry. Hancock published multiple papers on the topic, and Siping grew rapidly as a result. He is credited for discovering both the “Bounce” spell, which will make a rubber ball bounce continuously, and the “Quicken” spell, which is placed upon the rubber soles of shoes to give their wearer the ability to run more swiftly.

Hancock’s discovery and subsequent fame launched broad interest in magic across the world, setting off a race to find the next castable material. The winner was American chemist Marcus Dunn. Not only did he invent plastic in 1872, but he also learned that the material could be bonded. He discovered the “Melt” command shortly thereafter. Polymaking—plastic-based magic—is the newest and least explored materials magic to date.

The World of Ice and Fire: A Look at the Interior Pages

6a00e54ed05fc2883301b8d084a67a970c-500wiThe World of Ice and Fire is here. Below is a look at some of the pages from inside the book(click on each page to get a closer look).

Here are some specs:

• full-color artwork and maps, with more than 170 original pieces
• full family trees for Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen
• in-depth explorations of the history and culture of Westeros
• 100% all-new material, more than half of which Martin wrote specifically for this book

The publisher describes it as "the definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe." Sure seems like it.

 

 

 

 

1
“The Wall and Beyond” chapter opener; art depicts The Wall and Castle Black

 

2

Title Page; art depicts Aegon the Conqueror upon Balerion, the Black Dread

 

3

“The Glorious Reign” chapter opener; art depicts The Red Keep and King’s Landing

 

4

 Endpapers depicting Dragonstone