May 2016 – My Bookish Month in SFF.

In an effort to keep track of exactly what I’ve read and done (Anything geeky), I’m doing a monthly post summarising what I’ve read each month, as well as any events I’ve been to etc. This is my post for May! (Put together bit by bit over the course of the month, so I don’t spend hours on it at the end of the month!

May 2016 is weird month in the release schedule for various SF/F short fiction Ezines like Uncanny, Mothership Zeta, Lightspeed etc… Various issues that get published every month/2 months/3 months are aligning in May to all come out within a few days of each other – That’s great! A feast of short fiction and related content!

Warning: MAY(2016) contain spoilers!

Here goes.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The novel of the movie. So YESSSSSSSSSS!

This is the same story (more or less) that you may have seen in the cinema or on DVD/Blu-ray. So it IS awesome! But there are a few differences to note. (I’m guessing this novel was written based upon an early screenplay of the movie or based on a screenplay that was edited down with scenes re-jigged/cut from the final version of the movie.)
There’s more detail in this novel about certain events! Characters that were not referred to by name in the movie have names! There are conversations and entire SCENES in this novel that didn’t make it into the movie. How Poe escaped Jakku for one example!
There are also a small number of moments that playout slightly differently than in the movie. Kylo Ren’s interactions with Rey during her interrogation/reactions to her escape for one.
Basically, even though I’ve seen the movie at least six times since its release (one of those times just a couple of days before I read this)I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. Loved it in fact.
So I definitely recommend this novel.
May the force be with you – ALWAYS!

Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2,and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters, including Rey, Finn, BB-8 and Kylo Ren.
Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.
So return to that galaxy far, far away, and prepare yourself for what happens when the Force awakens…

2. Mothership Zeta: Issue 3.

Mothership Zeta: Issue 3

The third ezine from the popular podcast production company, Escape Artists, Mothership Zeta offers speculative fiction that has a focus on fun. Fun is subjective, naturally, but we hope these short stories, reviews, and nonfiction pieces offer a look at the lighter side of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Table of Contents
Editorial
Fiction: Nobody Puts Baby in a Chamber by Alexis A. Hunter
Fiction: A Man Most Imperiled by Dan Malakin
Fiction: The Smoke Job by Aaron Canton
Nonfiction: Movie Review: There Is No “I” in Lazer Team by Rachael Acks
Nonfiction: Astronauts Prepping to be The Martian: They build things and grow things…in space by Pamela L. Gay
Fiction: Straight Lines by Naru Dames Sundar
Nonfiction: More Inspiring Words from the Oxford English Dictionary by Karen Bovenmyer
Fiction: Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier by Laura Pearlman
Nonfiction: The Story Doctor Is (In) by James Patrick Kelly
Nonfiction: Graphic Novel Reviews: Heroes, Super and Not by Adam Gallardo
Fiction: A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters by A.T. Greenblatt
Nonfiction: Lasting Fiction: The City and the City by Karen Bovenmyer
Fiction: Every Instance of You by Cassandra Khaw

Awesome! Every story and non-fic piece in this issue were fantastic, I’m just going to give a shortlist of the ones I loved the most!

A Man Most Imperiled by Dan Malakin – ALL HAIL ZIRCON, THE PROTAGONISST! I love the main character, Zircon so much! This story feels like it’s been ripped out of the 50/60’s and then beamed by atomic lasers straight into my heart!

The Smoke Job by Aaron Canton – This is an Urban Fantasy short story. Think of it like an episode of TV show Hustle or Leverage – but with Dragons and Vampires and Witches. Go and read this now, you can thank me for telling you about it later. Seriously, make sure you thank me I’M WAITING!

Astronauts Prepping To Be The Martian: They Build Things And Grow Things… In Space! by Dr. Pamela Gay – Another great non-fic article by Dr. Pamela Gay. I hope the Mothership gets her to write more like this! Are you listening Mothership Zeta Crew? MORE DR. PAMELA GAY!!!!

Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier by Laura Pearlman – A story told in the form of a farewell letter. This story is worth it for the payoff in the last paragraph – TRUST ME!

A Non-Hero’s Guide To The Road Of Monsters by A. T. Greenblatt – Another Urban Fantasy(ish) short story. This is glorious. Funny and charming! Also, it contains awesome monsters.

Anyway, those were my absolute favourite stories from issue 3. The one’s I can’t quite choose an absolute favourite over any other. It’s also about 75-80% of the content in the issue, which says a LOT about the high quality of this ezine!
If you only read ONE quarterly SF/F story magazine, Buy and Read Mothership Zeta! If you don’t read any – Buy it anyway, the gender you find most attractive will think you are a sexiness embodied if you do – *that’s a true fact!

(*Not a true fact, but it SHOULD be!)

3. Uncanny Magazine Issue 10: May/June 2016.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 10: May/June 2016

The May/June 2016 issue of Uncanny Magazine.

Featuring new fiction by Seanan McGuire, Kat Howard, JY Yang, Alyssa Wong, and Haralambi Markov, reprinted fiction by Kameron Hurley, essays by Foz Meadows, Tanya DePass, Sarah Monette, and Stephanie Zvan, poetry by Beth Cato, M. Sereno, and Isabel Yap, interviews with Kat Howard and Alyssa Wong by Deborah Stanish, a cover by Galen Dara, and an editoral by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

Before I start on about which stories I enjoyed the most from a fantastic issue – I need to say a few words about the cover art by Galen Dara… DAMN IT’S GOOD! By far my favourite cover art from ANYTHING I’ve read so far in 2016!
And now to the stories/content! This a strong issue. Here were my favourites:

Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire – A tragic tale. This story is awesome, but sad.

The Sound Of Salt And Sea by Kat Howard – A story that deals with death, responsibility and grieving.

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong – A brilliant weird-western fantasy.

The Drowning Line by Haralambi Markov – Family curses, death and a monster in the waters. To what extremes would you go, in order to save the future generations of your family from a family curse? An emotive story.

The Plague Giver by Kameron Hurley – A reprint of a novella, originally published on Hurley’s patreon. This story immerses you quickly and deeply into a fantasy world where power is in the giving and manipulation of magical-like plagues and diseases. Set decades after a great battle, an old retired anti-hero is being dragged back into action. This story is epic.

Those were my absolute favourites from this issue. What were yours?

4. Lightspeed Magazine #72, May 2016.

Lightspeed Magazine, May 2016

Lightspeed Magazine, #72 May 2016
Edited by John Joseph Adams

As usual I read the ebook version. My favourites in this issue were:

The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch by Seanan McGuire – An awesome fantasy short story, full of monsters and a quest to save a little girl. But just who are the monsters? This story is deliciously charming!

Hungerford Bridge by Elizabeth Hand – A short, yet thought provoking tale set by the Thames in London. (I found this all the more enjoyable for knowing EXACTLY where it is set, I’ve been there and eaten my sandwiches there many a time!)

The Plagiarist by Hugh Howey – A thoughtful novella reprint, I can’t describe it very well without giving a major spoiler(s), but just ask yourself, could it really be turtles all the way down? What about Up? (That’s a metaphor you’ll hopefully understand if you read this great story!

5. Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman.

Between Two Thorns

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.

“BETWEEN TWO THORNS shows the darkness beneath the glamour of the social Season. Learning to be a young lady has never seemed so dangerous.”—Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award-winning fantasy author

“Emma Newman is an extraordinary new voice in SF/F.”—Paul Cornell, Hugo Award winner and author of LONDON FALLING and SAUCER COUNTRY

Between Two Thorns is book One of the Split Worlds series by the delightful Emma Newman. I read this in May as part of the group SF/F Read Along on Goodreads.

I’ve got to be honest, I started reading this over a year ago. But got distracted, put it down to finish later and never got back to it! (I’m so sorry, Cathy, Sam, Will & all! I’M A BAD READER!) In hindsight, I can’t believe what a dumb decision that was – this book is AWESOME!

My week one and two post is here.

My week three post is here.

My final, week four post is here.

Between Two Thorns is the first installment in the Split Worlds. An Urban Fantasy that explores three worlds, split apart. The Nether stands between Mundanus (Our world) and Exilium (The world in which the Fae occupy). The Nether stands in a kind of bubble outside of time/progress/entropy. In the Nether you do not age, corpses do not decompose, there is no sky, no natural beauty. Exilium is bursting with more life than seems possible, and with that extra energy – terrible danger!

Emma Newman has crafted a wondrous portal fantasy, where the lines between factions may not be as clear as you think, nor motives as obvious.

Welcome to Aquae Sulis, The season is about to begin – I hope you survive the machinations of the players!

6. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

25762847

Starting my 2016 Hugo Reading/Re-reading slog with this, the awesome Binti.

Binti isn’t just the title of this SF story, it’s the name of the main character. A young highly intelligent Himba woman. From a small and relatively isolated population, Binti makes a radical and long journey from her home, to a galactically prestigious university world to study, learn and innovate.

This novella tells the story of her journey, both the physical journey out to the stars, but the journey of her self-identity along the way.

Binti is an excellent read. I made actual noises of joy when I heard the author, Nnedi Okorafor had signed a deal with Tor.com to continue the story with further stories! I eagerly await the sequel!

One of those novellas I purchased and read in ebook, but loved so much I also bought the physical copy! It’s that good!

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Binti is going to be a tough act to follow in the Hugo Novella category. There’s a reason it’s being nominated for several awards this year! It’s bloody good!

7. Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

21265321

Years ago a group known as the Terrans left Earth in search of a life free of persecution. Now they live alongside the Tlic, an alien race who face extinction; their only chance of survival is to plant their larvae inside the bodies of the humans.

When Gan, a young, boy, is chosen as a carrier of Tlic eggs, he faces an impossible dilemma: can he really help the species he has grown up with, even if it means sacrificing his own life?

Bloodchild is Octavia E. Butler’s shattering meditation on symbiosis, love, power and tough choices. It won the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Science Fiction Chronicle awards and is widely regarded as one of her greatest works.

An interesting short story that leaves you feeling conflicted over how you feel about the characters, their choices and that of the societies they inhabit. This story won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for Best Novelette.

8. Velveteen vs. The Seasons by Seanan McGuire.

Velveteen vs. The Seasons (Velveteen vs., #3)

This is the third collection of “Velveteen vs.” stories.

This collection of stories s mostly set (as the title suggests) outside of the Calendar lands and instead focuses on the seasons that have meddled so much in our favourite hero’s life: Winter, Spring & Autumn.

There are also several stories that keep us up to date with the Calendar lands in her absence.

Let’s just say the seasons aren’t going to be easy on Velveteen, and her home is going to miss her – more than she might realise!

This third volume is just as outstanding as the first two. I did NOT want it to end!

WARNING: Contains many feels!

Action! Adventure! Punching things! Vel having a really, really lousy time!

New collection of all the Velveteen stories McGuire has released since the end of volume 2.

9. After The Coup by John Scalzi.

After the Coup (Old Man's War, #4.5)

In a universe of harsh interstellar conflict, the practice of interspecies diplomacy—when possible—is important. So being a Colonial Union officer attached to an interplanetary diplomatic mission sometimes means taking a fall. Literally.

Set within the Old Man’s War series. This is a short SF story where a delicate political negotiation relies upon the actions of one former soldier – ordered to take part in a test of combat.

A humourous tale. Short and sweet.

This was apparently the first piece of fiction published by Tor.com – So this is the start of an incredible publishing journey.

 

Other Bookish or Geeky Activities?

Whilst visiting family in Northampton, I took advantage of being only an hour or so away from central London and had myself a bit of a geeky day-trip. (Geeky shops, Geeky museums and awesome geeky friends!)  If that day-trip also coincided with the launch event for The Malice, the new Peter Newman novel – well, you can’t prove anything in a court of law! 😉

Click here for my write up on “My Geeky Day Out!”

Click here for my post on The Malice book launch.

Looking Ahead!

I’ll be rejoining the October Daye read along fun over in the SF/F Read Along group on goodreads! I took a hiatus from the read along for book 3 – but will rejoin the fun for book 4 (Late Eclipses). I’ll also be trying to keep up with another read along (MADNESS!) – this one will be book 2 of the Split Worlds series. June will be a busy month – Not least because there are also two geeky events I want to try and attend in June; The first ever London signing by Marie Brennan at Forbidden Planet on the 2nd of June and then later on in the month, Charles Stross is signing his new book, The Nightmare Stacks on the 23rd of June at Forbidden Planet in London or on the 24th of June at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Edinburgh. I’m definitely going to the Marie Brennan signing, I read her Doppleganger duology several years ago and loved them – By the day of the signing I’ll be someway through A Natural History Of Dragons! I’m hoping to attend at least one of the Charles Stross events, the London signing is looking to be the most likely though (I have to work an incredibly early shift on the 25th).

In July there is Edge-Lit in Derby. Every year this is on – I always seem to be rostered to work. This year was no different, EXCEPT this year my daily leave application was granted! Tickets have been purchased, so I’m going to my FIRST ever Edge-Lit! Woohoo! Will I see you there? Bookwise, I’m mostly looking forward to the release (FINALLY!) of Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn. It’s a book I pre-ordered IMMEDIATELY after reading the novella One Con Glory back in January. Roll On July!

heroin complex

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn.

 

Just announced for an early August (August 5th I believe!) release is the third in the Heartstriker series, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron. If you haven’t already discovered the works of Rachel Aaron, you should treat yourselves – her books are SO GOOD! August just can’t come soon enough!

HS3-cover-3

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron.

 

Are you attending any geeky events in the near future? Will you be at any of THESE events? If so let me know, we can say hi! 🙂 Otherwise, what have you been reading? Are you looking forward to any particular books or stories? Let me know.

Hisham.

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