the Little Red Reviewer

Author Archive

Collaborative, competitive, serialized, and interactive, Archipelago is part choose-your-own adventure, part screw-your-neighbor, and part stay-tuned!   What started out as a joint Patreon complete with enforced writing exercise has turned into what could be the next big thing in serialized fiction.  Created by Charlotte Ashley, Kurt Hunt, and Andrew Leon Hudson, Archipelago is a historical fantasy with Lovecraftian flavors. Members vote on where they want the story to go, and the authors have to go in that direction!

A few teaser intro episodes are  publicly available on their Patreon, check out The Ur-Ring by Charlotte Ashley, In Extremis by Andrew Leon Hudson, and Whatsoever is New by Kurt Hunt.  Here’s the homepage of their Patreon, where you can learn more.

I’ve been intrigued by this project since the moment I heard about it,  so I was super thrilled when the authors agreed to do a panel interview with me.  I set up a shared document on Google Drive, put in some open ended questions, and let them take the wheel!   But before we get to that, let’s learn a little about these amazing and creative writers:

Andrew Leon Hudson is an English writer, editor and designer based in Europe, a ten-year resident of Madrid with the local vocabulary of an introverted three-year-old at best. He is only now coming to terms with the stunning moment of culture shock that came with realising Sir Francis Drake – one of England’s great naval heroes, especially famed for his victory over the Spanish Armada – is viewed in his chosen home as nothing but a despicable pirate. He became involved with the Archipelago project as a way of working through this nautical trauma, and you can track his general therapeutic progress at https://andrewleonhudson.wordpress.com/.

Charlotte Ashley is a writer, editor, bookseller, and reckless thrillseeker whose stories are all mostly true. Since moving to Toronto, Canada, she has dabbled in the arts of fencing, parkour, capoeria, and LARPing, applying the lessons learned to her skill at writing rollicking swashbuckling adventures. Her stories have appeared in F&SF, PodCastle, the Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, and numerous anthologies. She has been nominated for both the Sunburst and Aurora Awards, and once wrote and performed a science fiction musical from the equipment of a CrossFit gym. You can learn more about her at http://once-and-future.com/ or on Twitter @CharlotteAshley

Kurt Hunt was formed in the swamps and abandoned gravel pits of post-industrial Michigan. At 17, he fell in love and moved into a shabby Chicago apartment instead of that fancy school he planned to attend, a decision that convinced him that the best things in life cannot be planned but must instead be conjured through a combination of good luck and poor impulse control. His fiction has been published at Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and PodCastle, among others, and he co-edited the 2016 “Up and Coming” anthology of writers eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. You can follow Kurt on twitter at @SonitusSonitus .

and with that, let’s get to the panel!

Andrea Johnson: How did the three of you come up with the concept for Archipelago? What were your brainstorming sessions like?

Charlotte Ashley: It started out as a simple shared Patreon, then spun out of control. Andrew and I decided to do a shared world with a lot of interactivity and we realized pretty quickly that we had a similar vision of how this would work out. We invited Kurt on board and he “got it” instantly as well.

We brainstormed through Google Hangouts – it was a lot of “Oh! Oh! We could do this!” “Yes, omg, and then this!” We wanted a format that allowed as much autonomy as possible, with leeway for adding new things on a continual basis. As our characters discover the world, we’re discovering it as well.

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Coming this summer from Apex Books is MARS GIRLS, a YA adventure set on everyone’s favorite red planet.  Written by award winning author Mary Turzillo, Mars Girls follows the frantic and frenetic adventures of Nanoannie and Kapera.  Both girls understand the dangers of living on Mars, but still, life isn’t easy when you’re just a couple of Mars Girls!    Click here to preview the first chapter of the book.

What others are saying about Mars Girls:

“Mary Turzillo has crafted an extraordinary tale of teenaged adventure on a harsh planet. Heroines Nanoannie and Kapera use bravery and ingenuity to survive on a vividly imagined future Mars.”
—Brenda Cooper, author of Edge of Dark

“Mars Girls delivers real-feeling characters in a fast-moving, exciting space adventure.”
—Kij Johnson, author of The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

“Great fun! A rollicking adventure across a uniquely imagined Martian landscape.”
—S Andrew Swann, author of Dragon Princess

 

And what would a blog tour be without a giveaway? Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to get entered in the give away for a free e-book of Mars Girls.   Mary Turzillo and Nanoannie and Kapera have been blog touring all over the blogosphere, head on over to these other posts to read reviews, interviews, and more!

 

Blue Book Balloon reviewed Mars Girls

Interview and give away at Dab of Darkness

The Journey to Mars Girls guest post at The Grimdark Files

Review at Rapture in Books

Review at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews

Interview and give away at Books, Bones, and Buffy

10 Bad Habits reviewed Mars Girls

Unlikely Friends Driven Together by Disaster, a guest post and giveaway at Ardent Attachments

Would You Go To Mars? Guest post at I Smell Sheep

Religions on Mars, according to Mary Turzillo Guest post at Skiffy and Fanty Show

Women Write About Comics interviews Mary Turzillo, the original Mars Girl

Why I Wrote Mars Girls guest post at Frank Errington’s Blog

Frank Errington reviewed Mars Girls

Wow, that’s quite a trip around the blogosphere!

The tour ends here, at Little Red Reviewer, with an interview with Mary Turzillo.  This may be the end of the blog tour, but it’s just the beginning of Nanoannie and Kapera’s adventures out in the wild.  If this book looks like something you or someone you know would enjoy, head over to Apex Books or Amazon to order yourself a copy.

About Mary Turzillo:

Mary Turzillo’s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award. She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots. SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award. She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex. She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

 

Let’s get to the interview!

 

Andrea Johnson: Who was your favorite character to develop and write in Mars Girls?

Mary Turzillo: It’s hard to choose. Nanoannie is a more complicated character than she at first seems, since her desires and enthusiasms are so conflicted. She wants adventure, but now that it’s happening, she’s rather it had more designer suit-liners and fantasy boyfriends, and fewer slightly burned hands, slimy kidnappers, and unwanted real-life lovers. She seems all surface, but despite her silliness, she has backbone.

But I’m also rather fond of Cayce. He’s such a player. In fact, I like him so much that I gave him a cousin by the same name in an upcoming novel, except the cousin is younger and a rather nice guy.

AJ:  Without giving any spoilers, can you tell us which scene was the most fun to write? Which scene was the most difficult to write?

MT: It’s hard to talk about scenes very farther into the novel with out giving out spoilers, but here goes. Out of context I’m not giving too much away.

I enjoyed writing everything in the novel. If I didn’t enjoy a particular scene, it meant I’d just have to ditch it, because if I didn’t like it, how could I expect the reader to enjoy it? But my favorite was, curiously, Kapera doing her EVA. I researched space-walks thoroughly, and I even have a mug from Kennedy Space Center of the cooling radiators on the International Space Station. I wanted to show her courage and ingenuity and the fact that she persisted.

The hardest passage to write was Marcus’s account of what really happened at Smythe Pharm, because the plot had gotten pretty complicated by that time. I also had to get inside Marcus’s mind. I’m writing about him in another novel, a prequel to this one, and he’s an interesting, tortured soul with a strange background. He’s been a criminal and also a devoted family man. This is all background, but it had to be subtext.

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Penric’s Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold

published in May 2016

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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Everyone has heard of Lois McMaster Bujold. Creator of the beloved and long running Vorkosigan space opera series, and creator of the World of the Five Gods fantasy series, among other series and stand alones. I imagine she has multiple mantles in her house to display the myriad awards she has won during her long career.
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When Subterranean Press sent me advanced reading copies of her new novellas that take place in her World of the Five Gods series, my first thought was how many additional novels will I have to read for these to make sense? New novels and stories in the Vorkosigan series make me nervous because I am so under read in that series that I miss more than half the jokes. So as more Penric novellas showed up on my doorstep, I got more and more nervous. But? The first one was scarecly 200 pages, and if I read 20 pages and nothing made sense, I could always put it down, right?
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So, the good news is that I had nothing to worry about, because Penric’s Demon is a pleasure to read, and requires zero knowledge whatsoever of the world.
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The better news is that there are now four novellas in this group (not exactly a series?), so if you like what you read in Penric’s Demon, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy.
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Ok, I lied. You need to know a smidgen about the World of the Five Gods for Penric’s Demon to make sense. You need to know it’s a medieval secondary fantasy world with a feudal government and sorcerers receive formal educations to best use their powers. Also, there are five gods. There. That’s all you need to know to go into these novellas and enjoy yourself.
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Penric, the son of a country baron of dwindling fortune, is nineteen and naive. On his way to his formal betrothal ceremony, he stops by the side of the road to help an ailing old woman. She doesn’t make it, and this is the end of Penric’s boring provincial life. She wasn’t just any old woman. Learned Ruchia of Martensbridge was a physician, high sorceress, and she was carrying an old demon. When she died, the demon had to go somewhere. It went into Penric.

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Me and audio fiction have a tenuous friendship. I tend to get distracted while listening to audio fiction, which means I have to listen to the same stories over and over and over again, almost like they are long musical pieces. Do I listen to the occasional audio book? Sure do. Are they something I seek out? Not really.   But . . .  long commute to work through beautiful farmland is the perfect setting for some audio short story podcasts.  And Clarkesworld has the amazing Kate Baker.  So there’s that.

 

If you’re not sure audio short stories are for  you, find something narrated by Kate Baker.  Her voice is warm and welcoming, drawing you in to the inflections and pauses. When I listen to her, I feel like it’s just the two of us having an intimate conversation in a dark pub where the bartender knows us and lets us hang out at that table in the back as long as we’d like. She’s not reading me a story, she is telling me a story. My brain responds to her voice the same way my brain responds to music, even though she’s not singing. All that to say that Kate Baker’s voice has absolutely spoiled me.

 

Still, I stick with the shorter of the short stories that she narrates.  Maybe the more I listen to, the more I will want to listen to and will download longer stories? Time will tell, I guess.

 

Last week, I listened to “Left of Bang – Preemtive Self-Actualization for Autonomous Systems” by Vajra Chandrasekera from the April issue (issue #127) of Clarkesworld, and “Two Ways of Living” by Robert Reed from the March issue (issue #126) of the same magazine. Both were narrated by Kate Baker, and by “listened to”, I mean I listened to them each at least 3 times.   Only today, as I’m writing this blog post  am I actually looking at the text versions on the Clarkesworld magazine website, mostly to just check the spelling of character’s names.  How strange the shapes of the text seems, after having heard the stories on audio.

 

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This month’s Apex Magazine has a bragworthy table of contents.  Fiction by Aimee Ogden, Tobias Buckell, Mary Turzillo, Maureen McHugh and more, and non-fiction essays and reviews from Karen Lord, Mary Turzillo, and A.C. Wise.

 

You’ll need to check back on their website later in the month to see everything that’s being released for free, but right now, you can read the fantastic short story “Elena’s Angel”, by Aimee Ogden, and you can also read the interview I did with her.

 

But I want to turn this into a discussion. Go read Ogden’s story.  Or if you don’t have time, just read the Interview. or if you have lots of time, read both. And come back here and chat with me in the comments.   What did you think of the Angelic people in the story? Are they helpful? a hindrance? abusive? are they a gift, or something to be freed from?

 

And speaking of short stories, I’ve been enjoying some fantastic short story podcasts from Clarkesworld recently,  and hope to post reviews of them soon.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

published in 2016

Where I got it: purchased new

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What’s your opinion on getting thrown in the deep end, buried in terminology, and a world that’s never fully explained? If you answered “I’m good with that”, you’ll enjoy Ninefox Gambit.  If that sentence made you quiver in your seat a little, then maybe this book isn’t for you.  And I’ll admit, I struggled through the first 50 pages or so – the language was gorgeous, almost musical,  with animal, insect, and bird signifiers telling me something. I had no idea what was going on, or what the signifiers were supposed to tell me, but it sure was pretty.   So started the book again, from the beginning, forcing myself to pay close attention to the political maneuverings, unique military terminology, cultural slang, and calendrical heresy.

 

Calendrical Heresy, that’s one I should explain, isn’t it?  But doesn’t that phrase sound delicious on your tongue? Say it out loud with me: Calendrical heresy. It tastes like apricots and caramel, and looks like leaves falling on a calm pond.   A militaristic society built on mathematics and belief, the technology of the Hexarchate depends on everyone following the same calendar, and observing the same holidays and observances all at the same time. If you are doing something against the calendar, you are heretical, and after the military catches you, you’ll be re-educated. No government wants disruptors, right?   Is it math that makes the technology work? Religious observations and belief? Spirituality? Some pretty deep stuff.

 

The novel is broken up into three discreet acts. The first act involves Kel Cheris is “partnered” with the digitized ghost of a famous military general.  General Shuos Jedao never lost a battle, but he also slaughtered his own soldiers.  He’s suicidal, depressed, angry as fuck, and now bonded to Cheris’s brain.  Lucky her.  One of the Hexarchate’s most important fortresses, The Fortress of Scattered Needles, has fallen to heresy.   Jedao was known for breaking all the rules, and Cheris is known for following all orders to the letter thanks to her unbreakable Formation Instinct, so they make an interesting pair.

 

I should explain Formation Instinct a little? Simply put, it’s brainwashing.

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Acceptance (Southern Reach #3) by Jeff Vandermeer

published in 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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The Southern Reach series came out in 2014, and I didn’t even need to wait for the series to be completed as all three books were published in the same calendar year.  So what the hell took me so long to finish reading it? None of these books are very long, and I wouldn’t describe any of them as difficult reads. So what gives?   A couple of things.

 

  • I didn’t want the series to be over
  • After reading the 2nd book in the series, Authority, I was a little intimidated to continue. Ok, A lot intimidated, because I really struggled with Authority.  (Which has led to me being a little intimidated to read Vandermeer’s newest book, Borne, which yes, I know is completely silly.)

 

Why did Authority intimidate me? I talked a good talk when I reviewed that book, but I struggled to read it and I had no idea what was going on.  Jeez, now I know how Control felt.  He’s been hired to do a job, and walks into this Kafka-esque tapestry of the WTFery that he’s supposed to summarize in reports to his superiors.  He can’t look like a fool to his employers, of course. Even worse, this is a government research agency.  If this is anything like actual R & D, the paychecks stop if you don’t produce results. Any kind of results. As an employee of the South Reach agency you’ve got to justify your existence, right?

 

So anyway, the mistake that I made was reading Authority as a standalone.  What finally worked for me was to binge read all three books, literally picking up the next book 10 minutes after finishing the previous one.  Authority and Acceptance worked very well when I read them as one longer novel.  I highly suggest reading these 3 books as one long novel to anyone who is interested in this series.

 

After all of that rambling, let’s talk about Acceptance, yes?  Sure.  But there are going to be spoilers for the entire series from this point forward.  And more rambling.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.