Sep 2, 2012

Shut Up and Take My Money - Redesigned Game of Thrones House Sigils

Over on, Lauren Davis posted a link to graphic designer Darrin Crescenzi's passion project - a corporate rebranding of the House Sigils from Game of Thrones. Crescenzi, who has previously worked with Nike, Livestrong, and Project (RED) on various projects, gives each house sigil a modern day makeover with clean lines and bold colors.

The designs themselves are pretty sweet (you can buy a print (update: sold out) from Crescenzi for $35) but I think that they could go a step further. You know what I'm talking about: Game of Thrones house polo shirts.

Instead of the Ralph Lauren polo player, the Lacoste alligator, or the Banana Republic elephant, I'd love to shirts sporting the Stark direwolf, the Lannister lion, the Targaryen dragon, the Tyrell rose, or the Greyjoy kraken. Crescenzi's simple designs would translate perfectly to the embroidered logo featured on most brand polos. It would be a great way to let your geek flag fly without .

Provided, of course, that we can wear our house colors without resorting to the old rivalries. We wouldn't want another Red Wedding, would we?

Aug 14, 2012

YBSF - Achievement Unlocked?

Last year I unlocked one of my most sought after bibliophilic objectives - collecting all 80-odd volumes of Gollancz's SF Masterworks series. They are still coming out but I can keep up with them via airmail, no problem.

My current project is a lot more troublesome - collecting all 29 editions of Gardner Dozois's doorstopping Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series from St. Martin's Press. I've got 18 so far (5,7,9,11,12,14,16,17,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29) but the majority of them were acquired via point-and-click ordering off Amazon. Anything pre-20 was acquired through used book store browsing or as a gift. While I'm sure I could go crazy on Powell's or Alibris and complete my collection, I'm loathe to do so. It just seems like throwing money at it would eliminate the thrill of the chase (something only collector's would understand).

But now comes the news that all of Dozois' anthologies will be e-available this October through the usual vendors. Rumor has the price tag set somewhere between $7.99 and $9.99. Suddenly, unlocking the entire achievement seems possible for less than $300.

Should I give in? Or hold out hope that the e-copies will make the print books somewhat more acquirable?

Regardless, look for a few million words of quality SF hitting e-stores this fall.

Jun 29, 2012

Red (,White, and Blue) Country

A bit of fortunate news for American fans of Joe Abercrombie (and his little known writing partner Jim Fitch). Orbit's new US manager Dan "Sandy" Glokta has improved the performane of the publishing team so much that the US release of Abercrombie's latest, RED COUNTRY, has been moved up to October 23rd from its originally scheduled November 20th date.

That means that US fans will only need to avoid online spoilers for less than a week (5 days to be exact) after their British counterparts race through what is sure to be one of the year's best fantasy titles.

On the mumbly side of the big lake (that's what they call it right?), there is still no sign of the UK artwork which means I don't know which copy to order now. They would both be on my doorstop at about the same time so I guess I need to go with whichever one is prettier. As the swamp attack always says "We will see."

May 22, 2012

Yeti Review: Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis

In A Few Words: The best debut of 2010, Bitter Seeds delivers on it's promise of Nazi Supermen vs. British Wizards; representing the start of a dark but brillant new trilogy that is as aggressive in scope as it is captivating in delivery. (2 stars)

  • Well-written characters that carry the novel through grim subject matter;
  • Thought-provoking speculation that raises Bitter Seeds above the standard WWII reimagining;
  • The strong integration between alternate history of the war and the events of the book makes the notion of warlocks and psychics feel real; 
  • The implied structure of Milkweed Triptych promises continued originality and innovation

  • The conclusion feels a somewhat anticlimatic as the second book is set up;
  • As more of a warning than a con, the tone of the story gets almost too dark at times;
  • Not enough Gretel.

The Review: The saying goes, "War is hell." In few novels is this more true than in Ian Tregillis's debut novel. An alternate history tale set during the darkest days of World War II; Bitter Seeds pits Nazi supermen against British demons in a sprawling battle that leaves everyone involved with deep scars: some physical, some emotional, and most both. Through a quartet of characters intimately involved in this secret war inside a war, Tregillis focuses on these scars and the wounds that cause them in a strikingly dark but equally impressive debut that has earned two stars in my new rating system.

Rather than trying to cover an alternate war in its entirety, Tregillis makes a wise decision and chooses to examine four lives within the war rather than the war itself. From Bitter Seeds’ first pages, it's clear that these four souls are not destined to lead normal lives. On the German side, the orphaned siblings Klaus and Gretel are purchased by Herr Doktor von Westarp for his abhorrent experiments. They and other war orphans are destined to become the Gotterelektrongruppe, a special Nazi outfit of supermen capable of flight, telekinesis, invisibility, and even precognition among other abilities. Klaus himself learns the ability to “ghost”; to pass through walls, bodies, and bullets like they don’t exist. His sister, Gretel, possesses powers of prediction that render her cryptic and, more often than not, incomprehensible. Gretel is the least written about character of the four but still manages to steal scene after scene with her bizarrely captivating antics and disrespect for causality.

Across the channel in the British Isles, a young Raybould Marsh is taken in by a British Intelligence Officer. Little does Marsh know that a career in intelligence will lead him to become involved with forces beyond his imagination. Elsewhere in England, the uncorrupted mind of Will Beauclerk is exposed to eidolons for the first time by his sorcerer grandfather. These entities reside outside the realm of human existence but are willing to interfere, at least for a price. Fast forward fifteen years or so and the world is on the verge of war. Raybould learns of the Nazi supermen during a routine espionage mission to Spain and he is soon tasked with stopping them. As such he reaches out to his college friend, Will, who possess a peculiar set of skills that just may level the playing field. From this brief description, it should be easy to see why the book is advertised as “Mad English warlocks battling twisted Nazi psychics.”

Bitter Seeds delivers on this promise in droves with several outstanding action sequences that just beg for big screen treatment. But underneath the exciting attempts to catch a man that can walk through walls and the orchestrated chaos of an ambush ruined by precognition, Tregillis conceals a wealth of character that helps the story transcend what could have been pure pulp. Now the premise and the execution are strong enough that Bitter Seeds would have been highly enjoyable pulp, but this unexpected depth takes Bitter Seeds from good to great.

Rather than depicting the white vs. black, good vs. evil reimagining of World War II that is all too common where Nazis are involved; Tregillis paints his cast in shades of gray. By focusing on the morality of the characters on both sides of the war and the motivations that can drive normal humans to commit atrocities, the book becomes incredibly gripping, albeit it in an almost perverse way. Another quote applicable to the first volume of the Milkweed Triptych has to be "all is fair in love and war."As the war escalates and the British become more and more desperate to halt the inevitable German invasion, the demonic eidolons demand more and more blood in exchange for their unnatural assistance.

The best science fiction is that which takes relatable ideas and uses speculation to stretch them to idealistic proportions. The idea that is explored here is that of the “Necessary Evil” (also the title of the third book of the Milkweed Triptych); one that frequently occurs in war when considering sacrificing a few for the needs of the many. But under what circumstances does the price become too high to pay? A death? A dozen? What if it's children? It is this grim question that plays heavily on both sides of the trenches and Tregillis sets the seeming unstoppable power of the German supermen against the crimson demands of the eidolons in order to raise the stakes until there is no right answer. Depressing? Yes. Thought-provoking? Without a doubt.

After a less than light hearted first third, this exploration forces the book to become darker and darker the book quickly gets even darker, almost to an excessive level. When a psychic Nazi appears to be the most well adjusted member of the cast, it’s difficult to generate empathy. But even at its darkest, Bitter Seeds never ceases to be compelling. There is a method to the sadness and Tregillis staggers the point at which characters hit rock bottom in a way so not to fully extinguish hope. If the first act sets up the characters as more than human, the second devolves Marsh, Beauclerk, and Klaus into something less than, and the third sees their attempt to pick up the pieces.

At first the conclusion feels somewhat underwhelming, in part due to the staggered nature of each of the character arcs. But as each of the characters concludes their final scene, we get a glimpse of the brilliant structure of the Milkweed Triptych, something that seems blatantly obvious in hindsight. In the last few pages, Tregillis teases the content of June's The Coldest War enough to make it instantly one of my most anticipated books of the year: a suitable accomplishment in its own right. In Bitter Seeds, Tregillis takes a played out setting and made it fresh again, crafting a darkly gripping tale that examines the morality of war through the lens of four superhuman characters who become anything but.

May 6, 2012

Remind me to be on twitter...

...during the last moments of and immediately following the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones.
In other news, Wave 2 of my work project is finally live and I hope to have a little bit more time around here. That is, after I finish reading Sword of Storms.

Apr 5, 2012

Book Trailers Still Suck

Fresh off this morning's cover debut from Orbit, Gollancz fires back with A RED COUNTRY book trailer.

When are publishers going to stop wasting their time on these?

Not only does it not convey Abercrombie's tone at all (unless A RED COUNTRY represents a significant departure from his style), it just looks awful. There is a static "texture" filter placed over some CGI nonsense cut from a 1997 PC game. And that scream?


Covering Covers: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

After yesterday's coversplosion, Orbit followed it up by debuting the cover of Joe Abercrombie's Red Country, which happens to be my most anticipated fantasy title of the year - a fact that would still be true even if The Winds of Winter, A Memory of Light, and The Doors of Stone were all due out this year.

Cover Art by Michael Frost, Gene Mollica, and Lauren Panepinto.

Ta Da! Fits nicely with the other US covers of Abercrombie's stand alone novels, although it appears Joe Abercrombie is quickly becoming a "big name" author. Also, love the texture and gritiness of the blood and dirt. It's a character centric cover done well.

And how many fingers does that guy have? 6...7...8...?

I like it even more when it's with it's friends.

If you are looking for more information about everything we know about Red Country so far, jump over A Dribble of Ink's recap post, which includes some spoilerific info previously reported by yours truly (be forewarned, thar be spoilers over yonder).

For those of you with spoiler intolerance, here's the safe summary from Orbit.

Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier. Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust…
Red Country comes out November 20th in the US and October 18th for those who still suffer under the tyrannous rule of Queen Elizabeth II.

Apr 4, 2012

Covering Covers: An Early Look at Orbit Fall/Winter Titles

It's a coverpalooza!!! Over at the Orbit Books Blog, creative mastermind Lauren Panepinto provided an early look at 20 new Orbit covers from their Fall 2012 / Winter 2013 line-up. No sighting on the Joe Abercrombie Red Country cover just yet but there are some gems in the line-up, particulary Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere and Jesse Bullington's The Folly of the World. I'm also a huge fan of the Cobley and Sapkowski import covers which manage to stand out while hitting all of the core demographic triggers (swords, castles, and dragons for fantasy / spaceships, planets, and stars for SF). Here are a few of my favorites, hop on over to the Orbit site for the full haul. 


American Elsewhere design by Kirk Benshoff


 Michael Cobley illustrations by Steve Stone, design by Kirk Benshoff.

 Sapkowski illustrations by CD Projekt Red & Massive Black, design by Lauren Panepinto


The Red Knight illustration by Epica Prima, design by Lauren Panepinto


 Folly of the World design by Lauren Panepinto

Seven Kings illustration by Richard Anderson, design by Lauren Panepinto.

I think my favorite is either American Elsewhere or The Time of Contempt. I like Folly of the World a lot too but it reminds me a bit too much of Corwin Ericson's Swell for some reason.

What's your favorite?

Apr 3, 2012

A Goddess of Wisdom

From Sofia Samatar's review of M. Rickert's excellent Map of Dreams.

"Again, this is what I call a double-voiced criticism. On the one hand, I'm saying it didn't work for me; on the other I'm saying I'm glad Rickert tried. We need writers who try. We might as well all stop reading if everyone's going to play it safe."

Quoted. For. Truth.

Different isn't always good. But it's rarely more of the same.

Mar 20, 2012

A New Rating System

I've often quarreled with the concept of rating genre fiction. People like numbers - something they can quickly use to judge a book's worth in lieu of reading an entire review. (500 whole words, do I have to?) When I started reviewing, I attempted to stick to SF Signal's 5 star system, allowing for half stars in between, which more or less correlated to a X out of 10 type system. 

Unfortunately, I soon became dissatisfied with my system, mostly because the numbers started to bunch up in the 3.5-4.0 range. I typically read books I'm interested in so I don't often loathe books to enough to give them fewer than 2.5 stars. I also was reluctant to give out 4.5 and 5 stars, mostly because as good as a book was, it still wasn't a perfect 5/5. Ignoring the very few outliers, I was more or less working between the 2.5 and 4.5 range. 

With such a wide range of subgenres and styles in the genre, I found it increasingly impossible to compare books on a numeric basis. After all, how does a flawlessly executed but pulpy urban fantasy novel compare to a more original concept that had a few flaws? If a YA novel is perfect for teenagers but pathetic for adults, where does that rate? How do you compare Jim Butcher and Michael Chabon, John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman? Good authors all, but for very different reasons. 

And don't get me started on the other blogs who had long ago abandoned any sense of logic. For some, a perfect book would garner 8.25 out of 10 but a terrible embarrassment of a novel somehow still managed to pick up 6.5. Some blogs gave away A+ ratings like candy on halloween (but inexplicably reserved A++++ ratings for the really good books); for others, the mere mention of a genre book denotes an absolute masterpiece. Over any extended period of time, numeric systems become more and more distorted to the point where they are essentially meaningless, particularly if you are not a regular reader of the reviewing site. Blegh.

Eventually, I became so frustrated trying to make sense out of these values that I removed numeric rankings from my reviews altogether.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I happened upon a full explanation of the ranking system employed by the Michelin Guide (yes that Michelin), the premiere global ranking system for restaurants. (I happened to be in a two star restaurant at a time. So good....)

The Michelin system is simple and works as follows. 

  • A restaurant is reviewed and assigned 0, 1, 2, or 3 stars.
  • One star indicates "very good cuisine in its category"
  • Two-star ranking represents "excellent cuisine, worth a detour,"
  • Three stars are awarded to restaurants offering "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"
Simple, clean, clear. If I didn't like a book or it wasn't anything special, it gets zero stars. No longer do I need to worry about slotting a mediocre high fantasy above or below a fun, if flawed steampunk adventure. 

If a book merits a star, it gets one or more according to the rules outlined below.

A one star review indicates a book that is "a great example of its subgenre and one that is highly recommended for those who enjoy that specific subgenre or are looking to break into the subgenre"

A two star tome denotes a book that is "a standout novel that demonstrates a unique approach or exceptional execution, likely to be one of the year's best and definitely worth reading, regardless of subgenre or preference. Strengths outweigh the weakness by a large margin"

Three stars will be reserved for any book that is "an instant classic in my mind, a soul crushing work of such brilliance that it annihilates any hope of every writing a novel as good, and an absolute must read. Virtually flawless"

To provide a little bit more context, if I were going to fit some recent books into this new rating system, it would probably look something like this

One Star (A lot more here but a few off the top of my head)
Arctic Rising - Tobias Buckell
The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey
Slights - Kaaron Warren
Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi

The Inheritance Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin

Two Star
Pandemonium - Daryl Gregory

Moxyland - Lauren Beukes
Changes - Jim Butcher
The City and The City - China Mieville
Bitter Seeds / The Coldest War - Ian Tregillis
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
The Heroes - Joe Abercrombie

Three Star
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
The Windup Girl (debatable) - Paolo Bacigalupi

I could see myself giving out 10-15 starred reviews a year (if the books are good enough), 5 or fewer two star reviews, and no more than 2 (probably 0) three star reviews. I'm also tempted to give out YetiStomps for those books which just plain suck but that might just be mean.

Let the new system commence! 

Mar 19, 2012

Gollancz SF Masterworks - Late 2012 and Early 2013 Titles

The latest Gollancz catalog also included an update on their extensive SF Masterworks line.

H.G. Wells - The War of the Worlds
Pat Cadigan - Synners
Nicola Griffith - Ammonite
Karen Joy Fowler - Sarah Canary
D.G. Compton - The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
Colin Greenland - Take Back Plenty
H.G. Wells - The Invisible Man
Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker
Connie Willis - Connie Willis Collection (hopefully to be retitled)
Eric Frank Russell - Wasp
Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Leibowitz

An interesting mix there. On one hand, everyone is aware of Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds and A Canticle of Leibowitz. But on the other, I haven't even heard of a few of these books, much less read them.

Has anyone read Riddley Walker, Wasp, Take Back Plenty, or the wonderfully titled The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe?

I'd be interested to hear some informed opinions.

Mar 18, 2012

Spoilerific Confirmation for Joe Abercrombie's RED COUNTRY

Caution: Spoilers Ahead...

According to the most recent Gollancz catalogue, Red Country is finally going to reveal the fate of Abercrombie's most beloved character, the Bloody Nine himself.
"His name is Logen Ninefingers. And he’s back for one more adventure... 
Joe Abercrombie is the most successful genre novelist of his generation, with a remarkable, cynical and powerful voice cutting through the clichés of the fantasy genre to create something compelling and exceptionally commercial. A Red Country is his most powerful novel yet."
Is it November yet?

Who am I kidding? I'll be importing this from the UK as soon as it is released in September.

Stupidest Thing I've Seen On Twitter Today

Someone is positing that District 9 is a better SFF film than Back to the Future.

That's not even debatable. I don't know if I would put District 9 ahead of Back to the Future 3.

In other news, Ian Tregillis's THE COLDEST WAR is everything BITTER SEEDS was and more. I can't think of a series that I'd more love to see on the big screen. Characters, action, plot - I love this book too much to finish it.

Mar 15, 2012

Covering Covers: The Rise of Ransom City - Felix Gilman

The only thing better than a clean, distinct cover is a series of clean, distinct covers. I can respect an art department that picks a direction and sticks with it. These two books will look mighty nice next to each other on the shelf.

The Rise of Ransom City continues Gilman's construction of a re-imagined world very different than our own. If typical steampunk stories are built from brass and copper, his half made world is made from platinum and gold.
In The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman took readers deep into a world on the cusp of forging an identity. The Line, a cult of Industry, and the Gun, a mission of Chaos, were engaged in a war for dominance, one that The Line was winning city by city, enslaving the populations it conquered. A doctor of psychology, Liv Alverhuysen, was caught in the middle, unknowingly guarding a secret that both sides would do anything to have.

Now Liv is lost on the edge of the world with Creedmor, an agent of the Gun, and the powerful Line will stop at nothing to find them.

But Harry Ransom, half con man, half mad inventor, is setting the edge of the world aglow. Town by town he is building up a bank roll and leaving hope in his wake because one of his inventions is actually working. But his genius is not going unnoticed, and when he crosses paths with the two most wanted outlaws in the “unmade world,” his stage becomes even larger and presents an opportunity more lucrative than any of his scams or inventions combined.
The Rise of Ransom City hits shelves November 27th, 2012.

Mar 10, 2012

Sanderson's Paradox - Free eBook Distribution

Over on Twitter, Brandon Sanderson was looking for potential ways to get package digital copies of his books for those who purchase hardcover editions of them. I've wished for this for years as it would allow me to leverage my Kindle Fire for travel and mobility while still supporting my rampant bibliophilia.

The basic requirements he lays out are as follows:

1) System should be publisher independent
2) Little to no additional cost to publisher
3) Books are available to be sampled in book stores (no shrink wrapping)

Option 1

The easiest solution is to have Amazon and B&N integrate it with their Kindle/Nook services where if you buy a physical copy of an eligible book through them, a redemption link is sent to your email or the e-book is automatically sent to the Kindle/Nook associated with that account. These companies both have the resources and the incentive to make this happen as it would correspond to huge growths in their tablet/e-reader sales. I actually wrote about this a long time ago back in 2009 though I don't think we're any closer to seeing this three years later.

  • No way to get the free e-book without buying the book first.
  • No modifications to the book necessary.
  • If a book is returned, access to the eBook could be revoked.
  • Doesn't prevent you from selling or sharing the physical copy of the book once you have your digital copy (no system really will)
  • Would be driven by booksellers not publishers (lots of potential issues here with who has rights to what)
  • Not open to indie booksellers.
But Sanderson throws another requirement in there - 4) that it needs to work as well for the big stores as it does for the little guys. If the mom and pop shops need to get involved it gets a little more complicated. Here are a few more potential solutions off the top of my head.

Option 2

Unique cards (similar to what is included in shrink wrapped DVDs with bonus copies) that are shipped with the books. It would be up to the book seller to distribute these cards upon the purchase of a book. Possibly enhance the security with a scratch off covering for the unique code and/or some type of bar code that the book seller would scan so it's included on the receipt (rings up as 0.00 with the purchase of the book.) This would you from returning the book without also returning the unscratched off card. You could then take this card to your eReader of choice and redeem it for free or a nominal fee.

  • No way to get the free e-book without the scratched-off code.
  • No modifications to the book necessary.
  • Open to all book sellers
  • Doesn't prohibit buying the book and sharing the code (no system really will)
  • Requires modifications to the bar code databases.
Option 3

The next solution would require no additional cards or modifications to the existing book.

A book would be printed with a code inside it. The code would be the same and printed in every book, except possibly library editions. You would enter this code at some website which would then activate a program based on the printed text. This program would randomly ask you 3-10 random questions based on the text layout of the book - what is the third word on page 392? - that needed to be answered within a set amount of time. This would prevent people from getting the information from the books in stores or posting guides to acquiring the books online.Yes, this wouldn't prevent people from going out, buying the book and then returning once they had the free digital copy but the hassle of doing that (see rebate logic) would be better than storing some code you could easily write down in the book store. You could also couple this with a unique code that would prevent the redemption of multiple books.

  • Prevents people from easily subverting the authentication system.
  • No modifications to the printing process necessary.
  • Potential buyers can still sample the book
  • Open to all book sellers
  • Process is more complicated than a simple redemption code and requires additional code.
  • Risks reader seeing spoilers.
  • Doesn't prohibit buying the book and sharing the code (no system really will)
  • Either multiple eBook copies could be redeemed with the same book or people could return a book with an already redeemed code in it.
Option 4

Print "$1.00 eBook editions" that come shrink wrapped with a unique redemption code inside them. They would be priced a dollar more (or whatever price you set) than the regular, non-shrink wrapped edition and you wouldn't be able to return an opened eBook edition. If you were on the fence, the non-eBook editions would be available for you to read a few pages.

  • No way to get the free e-book without the scratched-off code.
  • No modifications to the book necessary.
  • Open to all book sellers
  • Requires a method of writing unique codes in the book and securing the codes
  • Doesn't prohibit buying the book and sharing the code (no system really will)
  • People could open the shrink wrap and take the code without buying the book.
  • Could impact the sales of non-eBook editions if eBook editions were sold out.
So those are my ideas. Feel free to pick them apart or add your own.

Mar 8, 2012

Covering Covers: The Croning - Laird Barron

No caffeine and 15 straight 15 hour days at work make YetiStomper something something...

What's that? Go crazy? Don't mind if I do. And speaking of misplaced sanity, Laird Barron's debut finally has a cover, and a excellent one at that.

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us. Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...of The Croning. From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

Sanity is overrated anyway. Bring on the Barron!

Feb 23, 2012

Fact: Internet Polls Suck.

Tor released a curious best of 2011 list today as voted by us, the apparently incompetent internet populace. It's a bad list and they know it, as evidenced by their attempts to ferret out the causes behind the self-described "interesting" results.
  1. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (140 votes)
  2. The All-Pro by Scott Sigler (105 votes)
  3. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (63 votes)
  4. The Seventh Throne by Stephen Zimmer (63 votes)
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (55 votes)
  6. The Final Arbiter by Mark Rivera (55 votes)
  7. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (53 votes)
  8. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (52 votes)
  9. Dancing With Eternity by J.P. Lowrie (50 votes)
  10. Among Others by Jo Walton (49 votes)
Um, yeah... Why are we allowed to vote for anything?

I agree with that something is definitely amiss. I'm not pretending to be the be-all, end-all when it comes to genre literature but when I haven't heard of 3.5 (familiar with Scott Sigler but not The All-Pro) novels on a voter defined Top 10 list, it's a bit unusual. 

It appears certain authors may be gaming the system. Getting on to the list only takes 50 votes, and you would only need 141 to climb to first. Both of those numbers are definitely doable with a sufficiently motivated fanbase.

But that would be unfair of me to assume right?

There's no way that Stephen Zimmer's shameless plugging on his website had nothing to do with his 4th place slot, nor the fact that this monstrosity took home Best Cover of 2011.

It's like putting Dan Fogler on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition.
I mean really? Zimmer must have a garage full of kidnapped puppies somewhere.

Then there is Mark Rivera's constant updates on his book's facebook page. It is surprising that he got 55 of the 82 people who liked his page to go vote for him. I'm impressed - I've got 40 odd cousins and I thought that was a big family.

J.P. Lowrie got in on the act as well. And internet campaigns? Not without Scott Sigler.

BUT WAIT!, you say. You're being unfair, you're not using logic. Maybe it's possible that these books were just really good self published novels. Maybe a lot of people read them, liked them, and voted for them without being asked to by the authors.

Fine. Let's get freaky. -nomically at least.

Let's compare by matching this up with the number of amazon reviews each book got. While the # of Amazon reviews isn't a good indicator of quality, it is a fairly good number of the people that read your book, assuming a comparable % of readers are reviews. I would even assume that people that read self published fiction are MORE likely to review it based on what is likely a closer familiarity with the author. Face it, it's harder to stumble onto self published books than mainstream ones.

My theory is that the more people that read your book, the more people that can vote for it. (Assuming that there are no people who voted for a book without reading it, who would do that?) And since this is purely a numbers game, if 10% of 1000 that read a book like it, you would have more votes than a book that was liked by 50% of 100 readers. And that's being considerate - the numbers of readers for Name of the Wind versus The Final Arbiter are probably more in the neighborhood of 500,000 to 1000.

Lets take a look at the numbers.

Now, I reduced A Dance With Dragons's numbers because it skewed the chart too much at a whopping 31.1 reviews/vote but I think you might be able to guess which of these books might have had their own voting campaigns. Three books have a virtually non-existent ratio and the 4th (Dancing With Eternity) appears to be boosted by some fake Amazon reviews. A pseudonymous reviewer who writes a very short, very positive 5-star review for that specific book and nothing else on Amazon? Look out for herbivores -  you are a plant.


What is the point of having these lists if you can't trust them to be anything more than the most popular books of last year combined with the most mobilized fan community? Complain all you want about juried awards but I'm starting to think those are the way to go.

And, is this really a list you want to put your name on? You're better than that.

Here is the raw data for those who care.

The Wise Man's Fear - 713 reviews / 140 votes - 5.09 reviews/vote
The All Pro - 16 reviews / 105 votes - 0.15 reviews/vote
The Allow of Law - 150/63 - 2.38 reviews/vote
The Seventh Throne - 3/63 - 0.05 reviews/vote
Ready Player One - 613/55 - 11.15 reviews/vote
The Final Arbiter- 2/55 - 0.04 reviews/vote
A Dance With Dragons - 1650/53 - 31.1 reviews/vote
Fuzzy Nation - 113/52 - 2.17 reviews/vote
Dancing With Eternity - 40/50 - 0.80 reviews/vote

Among Others - 48/49 - 0.98 reviews/vote

Feb 18, 2012

Covering Covers: Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire (Or This Is Why e-Readers Were Created)

I'm sorry but as good a writer as Seanan McGuire (and her psuedonymous counterpart Mira Grant) is/are, there is no way I'm reading a book with a cover this audacious in public. If it weren't for the genre cred the 2010 Campbell award winner earned with here Newsflesh and October Daye books, I wouldn't give this book a second glance.

However, if you can stand the Baenish cover long enough to pick it up and turn it over, Discount Armageddon (whatever that means) does sound a least a wee bit interesting...
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

I'm going to have to leverage the relatively anonymity of the YetiKindle to read this one.

And let's just hope to Lord Sauron himself that Jim C. Hines doesn't see this one. I apologize in advance for that mental image.

Feb 14, 2012

Covering Covers (and Contents) - The Apex Book of World SF 2

I love surprises.

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that Lavie Tidhar was planning a follow up to his 2009 anthology The Apex Book of World SF.

Then I saw this.

An expedition to an alien planet; Lenin rising from the dead; a superhero so secret he does not exist; in The Apex Book of World SF 2, World Fantasy Award nominated editor Lavie Tidhar brings together a unique collection of stories from around the world. Quiet horror from Cuba and Australia; surrealist fantasy from Russia and epic fantasy from Poland; near-future tales from Mexico and Finland, or cyberpunk from South Africa: in this anthology one gets a glimpse of the complex and fascinating world of genre fiction – from all over our world.
Also included was the full Table of Contents:
  • “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” - Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • “Mr. Goop” - Ivor W. Hartmann
  • “Trees of Bone” - Daliso Chaponda
  • “The First Peruvian in Space” - Daniel Salvo (translated by Jose B. Adolph)
  • “Eyes in the Vastness of Forever” - Gustavo Bondoni
  • “The Tomb” - Chen Qiufan (translated by the author)
  • “The Sound of Breaking Glass” - Joyce Chng
  • “A Single Year” - Csilla Kleinheincz (translated by the author)
  • “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” - Andrew Drilon
  • “Borrowed Time” - Anabel Enríquez Piñeiro (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
  • “Branded” - Lauren Beukes
  • “December 8th” - Raúl Flores (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
  • “Hungry Man” - Will Elliott
  • “Nira and I” - Shweta Narayan
  • “Nothing Happened in 1999” - Fábio Fernandes
  • “Shadow” - Tade Thompson
  • “Shibuya no Love” - Hannu Rajaniemi
  • “Maquech” - Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “The Glory of the World” - Sergey Gerasimov
  • “The New Neighbours” - Tim Jones
  • “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” - Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Slows” - Gail Hareven (translated by Yaacov Jeffrey Green)
  • “Zombie Lenin” - Ekaterina Sedia
  • “Electric Sonalika” - Samit Basu
  • “The Malady” - Andrzej Sapkowski (translated by Wiesiek Powaga)
  • “A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” - Jacques Barcia
I've only read a few of these authors - Lauren Beukes, Hannu Rajaniemi, Ekaternia Sedia, Nnedi Okorafora - but if those names are indicative of the level of talent contained in this collection, it will be a great one indeed. So much (too much) of the science fiction and fantasy I read is written from a disturbingly small number of perspectives and it's often easy to forget there is a world of voices out there, each with their own story to tell. Books like this are a welcome wake-up call.

The Apex Book of World SF 2 is scheduled for publication in April of 2012 but if you preorder now, you can pick up the first volume for just $5 (also the current Kindle Price).

Has anyone read any of the other authors on this list? Any favorites?

Feb 13, 2012

Who Needs Hoth?

On Saturday, I finished Tobias Buckell's thought provoking ARCTIC RISING. It's an eco-techno-thriller set in a near future world where Arctic trade routes have opened as the ice has receded, creating an entirely new theatre for global politicking. I'd really like to see more of this type of science fiction - stuff that speculates on the near future of world dynamics - be it 20, 50, or 100 years out. So much of SF is devoted to depicting worlds that no one alive today will likely ever see and it's refreshing to jump into a world clearly derived from our own. Good stuff and I expect to have a full review up sometime this week.

On Sunday, Lake Michigan decided to avenge its glacial ancestors by throwing a little land invasion of it's own. Giant waves, high winds, and freezing temperatures combined to create a landscape unlike any I'd even seen before. Luckily, Yetiwife and I had our cameras at the ready. [EDIT: You can see the full session here.]

How was your weekend? What are you reading?

Feb 10, 2012

2013 Promises Blood (and More Bearded Debut Authors)

I'm still pulling together my list of 2012 debuts worth looking out for but I thought I would jump in the TARDIS for a quick look ahead to 2013.

I never get publishing contracts for my birthday...

Sometime in the past few months, Orbit outbid a few other houses for the right to publish PROMISE OF BLOOD, a debut fantasy novel from Brian McClellan (pictured above) as well as the 2nd and 3rd volumes of his intended trilogy. Now that the contracts have all been signed it's possible to share a little bit more about the book.

Here's the back of the baseball card as far as I be able to confirm:

Titles: PROMISE OF BLOOD / Untitled / Untitled
Series Title: Untitled Fantasy Trilogy
Release Window: Spring/Summer 2013
Release Format: Unknown
Elevator Pitch: Magic and Muskets
Burj Khalifa Elevator Pitch: Field Marshal Tamas and his powder mages have
staged a coup against the king of Adro. Their one night of bloody revolution
sparks the first war between the Nine kingdoms in fourteen hundred years as
the old regimes of nobility and Privileged sorcerers strike hard against the
upstart powder mages. Ancient sorcerers emerge from the woodwork as forces
take sides in the conflict and rumors of gods once thought long dead walk
the city streets.
Intended Series Length: 3 Books
Contract length: 3 books

Here's The Publisher's Marketplace announcement, lifted from McClellan's blog.

Brian McClellan's PROMISE OF BLOOD, a debut trilogy set in a world inspired by the revolutionary turmoil of 18th-century Europe complete with guillotines, starving peasants, fanatical royalists and a hero whose survival depends on a small group of honorable mages, including his own estranged son, to Devi Pillai at Orbit , in a good deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in Summer 2013, by Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates (World English).
Field Marshal Tamas has staged a coup against the king of Adro. His powder mages have slaughtered the king's Privileged cabal of sorcerers and the nobility has been rounded up to face the guillotine with their king. Tamas has brought revolution to his country in one bloody night to save his people and right the wrongs caused by the old regime. Yet his actions have far-reaching consequences of which no reasonable man could have conceived, and the king will prove the easiest obstacle to overcome in his quest to free Adro.

Captain Taniel Two-shot is a powder mage of considerable skill. Gunpowder makes him stronger and faster than other men. He can manipulate its properties to shoot out a man's eye at twice the length of a battlefield. It makes him perfect for killing the old Privileged sorcerers with their destructive magic. One of those Privileged has escaped Tamas' cull. The problem is, she's stronger than any sorcerer Taniel has ever seen, and the mercenaries sent to help him track her are of dubious reliability.

When Adamat is summoned to the palace in the middle of the night, the last thing the veteran investigator expects is to arrive during a regime change. His new employer is none other than the man responsible for overthrowing the current government and he has some unfinished business with the king's sorcerers. The dying Privileged cabal has left the Field Marshal with a riddle. It could be nothing, but Tamas does not like loose ends. Adamat knows from long experience that one doesn't ask questions unless one is willing to learn--and believe--the answers. To add to his problems, the Field Marshal isn't the only one interested in the answer to the dying sorcerers' riddle. As enemies emerge from the shadows and the investigation takes a disturbing turn, Adamat must decide where his loyalties lie.

Now I haven't had the opportunity to read any of PROMISE OF BLOOD yet but I did have the opportunity to speak with McClellan about his upcoming work at ConFusion. Based on that conversation and the fact it the rights went to auction, I wouldn't be surprised to see it as one of Orbit's flagship debut titles next year. I'll be sure to keep an eye out and post more when I have it but if you want to follow him directly feel free to bookmark his blog.

Feb 9, 2012

Go Read This. For Serious.

Dreaming Awake by N.K. Jemisin

Just a little reminder that all the nonsense I write here is a) fantastically shallow and b) not in any way well written. The post linked above is commentary on writing done right.

You might also want to check out some of Jemisin's fiction. She's a pure storyteller - plain and simple - in the vein of Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Octavia Butler.
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