the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘authors

admit it.  how many of you have shaken, peeked into, or generally cheated by opening your Christmas gifts early?   you’re not kidding anyone, we can all see the re-taping marks on the gifts under the tree and we can see where you stuffed the tissue paper back into the gift back. 😉

discovering a “new to you” author is always a gift to yourself, and you don’t have to wait till Christmas or your birthday to enjoy it.   Doesn’t matter if your friends have been reading that guy for years, or if she passed away before you were born.  They don’t have to be a debut author to be new to you.

What is your favorite “new to you” author that you discovered in 2013?

Some of my “new to me!” authors I discovered in 2013 include N.K. Jemisin,  Ian Tregillis,  Emma Bull (yes, I know),  Gillian Philip and Melanie Rawn.

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holy shit, it’s Tim Powers’ autograph!

oh, so this is that novelization I keep hearing about?

oh, so this is that novelization I keep hearing about?

How neat that he signed everything upside down!

and a bonus gift!


Such legible handwriting, he must be a scientist!

one of these days, you’ll get another book review. one of these days. . .

Blogger buddies ARE THE BEST.

I got to do a bunch of cool stuff last weekend.  Once of them (which encompassed all the other things) was attend ConText26, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Columbus, Oh.  As you can tell by the number after it’s name, ConText has been around for a while. Geared towards writers and publishers, this is a smaller convention. There was probably around 200 people there. In this case though, smaller is better. It makes for a casual and friendly atmosphere in which to learn and network.   As a “fan, non-writer”, I was in the minority. Nearly all the other attendees were writers, or involved with publishing, and interested in learning more about the craft.  I’m not a writer, but I was still fascinated by everything. Beyond panels and seminars, ConText offered a Filking concert, a Flash Fiction contest, a mass autograph session, a dealer room (to buy books to be autographed!), author readings, and of course, evening parties.

The best part was that I got to spend the weekend with my friend Elizabeth. She runs Dark Cargo, and she’s my partner in crime over at Bookstore Bookblogger Connection. She showed me around Columbus’s cool Victorian neighborhoods, took me on a bookstore adventure, introduced me to the local pizza and beer scene (Pies and Pints, FTW!), and generally ensured that I would have a #bestweekendever.  I met up with my friends John and Paul as well.


on Friday:

First panel was Liz Coley’s How To Make Your Words Shine. This was mostly about revising your drafts to get your manuscript ready for submission.  Everyone knows the basic grammar rules, but she touched on more subtle writing concepts, like adding sensory and textual descriptors (use your senses other than sight!), verbal patterns that it is easy to fall into (such as using too many adverbs) and other tips.  In my brain, what she was talking about was the engineering behind the artwork, the act of putting in the foundation last so the surface can glimmer with the texture you originally planned for it.  She suggested using the “find/replace” function to make sure the same words or phrases aren’t used over and over again, or twice in one sentence.

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Way back when I didn’t know epic fantasy from high fantasy, or an orc from a soulsword, my husband gave me a book and said something along the lines of “This is weird, but you might like it.  It’s fantasy, but it hasn’t got any orcs or quests or stuff. It’s about a guy who is an assassin, but he doesn’t like, like it. It’s just his job, and he doesn’t nejoy being so good at it, and there’s some cool magic. It’s by that same guy who wrote that book you really liked, The Sun, The Moon and The Stars“.  This was like eight or ten years ago, but it really did go something like that. My memory for these kinds of things is awful.

That book was The Book of Jhereg, and I have been a huge fan of Steven Brust ever since.  I have yet to find another author whose voice affects me so strongly. I haven’t read everything he’s written, but I am working on it. A little while ago Steven tweeted that he’d be interested in being interviewed about his upcoming novel, The Incrementalists, co-written with Skyler White.  After all the big-name famous bloggers chimed in, I quietly raised my hand.  One day I’ll realize my favorite authors are just regular people. But until that day, they can stay up on their pedestal and remain superheroes. Before I say anything too much more embarrassing, let’s get to the interview, shall we?

Feeling lost? Go check out my interview with Skyler White, my review of The Incrementalists, or if you have some time on your hands check out all my Steven Brust reviews. You might notice I asked both authors some of the same questions. that was on purpose.

Photo swiped from Wikipedia.

Photo swiped from Wikipedia.

Q: I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years. I’m nuts for Vlad Taltos, nearly ended a friendship because she thought Greg from The Sun, The Moon, and The  Stars was an asshole, and I pretty much follow you around twitter. But  everyone else reading this might not be like that, so would you introduce  yourself, and tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

A: This is tough for a Minnesotan; we get really uncomfortable talking about ourselves.  Um.  I’ll do my best.  I’ve been writing for 30 years, full time for about 26 of them.  I’m an amateur musician and poker player. Politically, I consider myself a Red.  I’m not an incrementalist.

Q: How did the idea for The Incrementalists come about?

A: I was involved in a sort of complex shared world open source creative commons multi-media project a while ago.  Being that far over my head (I understand almost nothing about any of those things), I went out asking for advice.  One of the people I asked–because one always asks him–was Tappan King.  In the course of the conversation, he mentioned the idea of a secret society operating through all of history and dedicated to making things a little better.

The idea stayed with me long after the collapse of the other project.  I was hanging out with Skyler talking about writing process and writer tools and tricks and How To Do It Gooder and stuff, and she mentioned how much she missed the collaboration that is inherent in theater.  I remembered what a joy it had been to write with Megan and Emma, so I mentioned Tappan’s idea.  We drank whiskey.

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Who is this TV Skyler White person I keep hearing about?

Forget that person, because I got to interview the REAL Skyler White! You know, the author who co-wrote The Incrementalists, one of my favorite books of the year?  For some background, check out Skyler’s website, or my review of the book.  Ok, have you done that? Cool! Let’s dive into the interview!

skyler key graphic

Hi Skyler, Introduce yourself! Please tell us a little about who you are and about your earlier books, And Falling, Fly, and In Dreams Begin.

Hi, I’m Skyler, and delighted to be here! The Incrementalists is my third novel, co-written with Steven Brust, and it may tell you more about who I am than I should be comfortable with to admit that “co-written with Steven Brust,” still feels like saying “swooped up and carried off by Chiron.”

and Falling, Fly was my first published book – a vampire allegory/love story between the fallen angel of desire who can only feed from those who want or fear her, and a neuroscientist, secretly formulating (and testing on himself) drugs to stop the images he thinks are delusions.

In Dreams Begin is a secret history/time travel that begins when the consciousness of a modern woman is stolen on her wedding night and channeled into the body of Maud Gonne, the Victorian occultist and Irish revolutionary who was also all tangled up with the poet WB Yeats in strange ways.

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Base designed by renowned artist Vincent Villafranca

Congrats to all the nominees and winners of this years Hugo Awards!  I’ve noticed a lot of searches for hugo award winning short stories are bringing people to my blog (thanks google indexing!), so to make it easier for you, here’s the master list of nominees and winners (bold, in red), with links to anything I reviewed. enjoy!

Best Novel

Best Novella

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

(all reviewed in one blog post)

  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)

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Madeline Ashby is the author of two of my favorite recent novels, vN and iD (links go to my reviews). In the Machine Dynasty series, Ashby envisions a near future world where Von Neumann self replicating androids have become an every-day part of our lives.  They raise and teach our children, take on dangerous occupations, and were supposed to make our lives easier.  Sounds easy, right? not so much, when you get the story from the vN’s point of view.

For more information about Madeline Ashby, her fiction, her travel schedule, and more, I encourage you to visit her website, and follow her on twitter. More than that, I encourage you to read her amazing fiction!

My question/prompt  to Ms. Ashby for her guest post was:

Once upon a time we started with Asimov’s unemotional humanoid robots, and then we evolved to robots who could be tricked/programmed to believe they were human and robots who desperately wanted to be human, and now in the Machine Dynasty series we have robots who know they aren’t human, but tend to feel emotions even stronger and more powerfully than many people.  What’s the next step for robot/AI fiction? Where do we go from here?

And here’s what she had to say:


Madeline-Low-Res-02-e1348636903481I think robot subjectivity is still a wide open space for science fiction writers. I think the challenge is to actually dig in to the reality of computer vision, and algorithmic detection of motion, affect, and identity. One of the things I beat myself up for is not digging more deeply into those things. There are other writers who just kill it when it comes to that kind of rigorous depiction of another’s consciousness. Peter Watts is probably the best at it — in his stories “The Things” and “Malak,” he’s able to write exactly the experience that an alien and a predator drone would have, from their perspective, without making any room for the human element. If you want it dumbed down or warmed up, well, that’s just too bad. He’s that disciplined in his approach.
So I think inevitably, we’ll get more of that kind of story. Less anthropomorphizing, and more cognitive re-framing of what “point of view” really means. When you think about it, the robots we work with on a daily basis have a split point of view: there’s what the drone “sees” (white and neon squares on a field of grey), and what the human “pilot” observes (targets). Together, that data and interpretation work together to create what we might call a vision, or a perspective, but by themselves neither component is entirely complete. Sitting at my desk, that’s an interesting challenge. How do I write something so split, so different? How do I write about that kind of sight? How do I establish that type of consciousness as a distinctive, memorable character?

Last week I reviewed Love Minus Eighty, the new speculative fiction novel from Will McIntosh.  I might be new to his fiction, but McIntosh has already taken the speculative fiction world by storm, having won a Hugo for his 2010 short story Bridesicle, and his novel Soft Apocalypse (2012) is a multiple award nominee.  He’s been publishing short fiction and winning awards since the early 2000s, so I was over the moon thrilled when Mr. McIntosh agreed to answer a few questions about the new novel, movies, day jobs, and what’s next.

Hi Will, thanks for joining us today!

Thanks, glad to be here!

Love Minus Eighty is an expansion of sorts of your short story Bridesicle. What was the inspiration for Bridesicle?

Bridesicle started as a brief image that flashed as I was waking up one morning.  It was Mira, frozen in her crèche, and as these things usually go, for some reason I knew this was a dating center.  The story grew from there.  At first I wrote it from the point of view of Lycan, a clueless man visiting the center for the first time, but after getting feedback I ended up shifting the point of view to Mira.

Bridesicle has parallels to the world of Hitchers, but in Love Minus Eighty, we’re in a world with plenty of followers, but no actual, traditional hitchers. Why the change?

I wrote a post for the Far Beyond Reality blog that explains this in more detail, but in a nutshell, I decided giving people the ability to upload their consciousness into someone else lowered the stakes, because it allows people to become basically immortal.  It also makes for a really complicated story, if some of the characters are actually two, or five, or ten characters sharing one body.  Sometimes a technology that seems cool in a short story introduces all sorts of complications when you’re telling a longer story.

I read somewhere that Bridesicle was optioned for a film. How exciting! What was your reaction to that? Any thoughts on changes you’d like to see, or fear to see when Bridesicle or Love Minus Eighty makes it to the big screen?

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Rest in Peace, Iain M. Banks.  Creator of The Culture and changer of the world.

photo yanked from wikipedia

photo yanked from wikipedia


I started reading Iain M Banks just over  a year ago. So recently that I’m not even sure I can call myself a fan.  But fan I quickly became of the man who reinvented Space Opera. I was hooked a hundred pages into Look to Windward. A few books later, Use of Weapons (which shouldn’t be your first Culture novel) shattered me into a million peices and allowed me entry into a hallowed and secretive club of readers who had been equally shattered. We had each others help to put ourselves back together even though some pieces would be lost forever.

Mr. Banks, you have changed me. You have shown me a path towards what is possible, and for this Sir, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  A light has gone out in the Culture, and this time more than just a few Drones have taken notice. Imagine all those people on all those Orbitals, suddenly sad, and not knowing why. Of all the billions of beings in The Culture, why should one person matter? Because when you’re the one reading the story, or living the story, it fucking matters. that’s why. Your Culture books are more than escapism, more than transportive. They are simply more.

It’s only June, and I already feel like I’ve lost too many people this year. I didn’t have the chance to thank them, to tell them how I felt, to tell them what their works and actions meant to me. A grief counselor gave me a letter template, a self guided exercise to help us articulate why that person was so important to us. It’s a one-way conversation that helps you through the grieving process.

Lesson learned.  Nothing is forever. Sometimes promises are broken with no hard feelings. I need to tell people how I feel before it’s too late. I need to write those letters now, before it’s too late.

I’ll let you in on a little Use-of-Weapons-eque secret: this post isn’t really about Iain Banks.

this post is about how to cheat time.

Time steals everything from us, but more so because we willingly give it the power to. This is my request, to anyone reading this post: Write those letters now.  Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, do not wait.  Did someone have a positive influence on your life? Did someone unknowingly help you through hard times? Let them know.  I suggest writing a letter because I am shit at verbal communications, and a letter allows the person on the receiving end some time to process what you’ve just said.  Written communication means less awkwardness later.

This is not permission to start stalking someone. Do not mail people dead chipmunks as a token of your love, and I better not see any marriage proposals on twitter.  Just send them a letter or an e-mail. These are the people who deserve far more than “thanks for being there for me” or “omg I love your books, when is your next one coming out???”. Tell them WHY their existence in your life was important to you.  Cheat time.

We have a very special guest today, someone I’ve actually met in person!  John and I met a few years ago at an airport when flights were delayed (cancelled? changed? I don’t remember) and a herd of passengers ran together to a different gate and then sat around chatting while waiting for whatever people wait for after rushing all the way across an airport terminal.   Just goes to show, you should always be friendly to your fellow passengers at an airport. You never know who you’ll meet!

John Meirau

John is a writer, podcaster, editor and all around Creative Storyteller Guy.  Working the bridge the gap between indie authors and authors who publish traditionally, his WALK THE FIRE anthologies are part of the new paradigm of how authors reach their audience.  The second anthology in the series is in the middle of it’s Kickstarter campaign, and features everything from Hugo nominated authors to indie authors, to music and artwork too.

Check out the WALK THE FIRE Kickstarter page for a video about the anthology, info on contributors, how to get yourself tuckerized, stretch goals and more.

Check out John’s blog for a series of interviews with some of the contributors, and a series of podcasts featuring free fiction from the first WALK THE FIRE anthology.

Sounds damn awesome, if you ask me.  But why are we asking me, when we can ask John instead?

Hi John,  welcome to the blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself? What kind of fiction do you write?
I write mostly science fiction, occasionally fantasy, weird western, horror, sometimes with an adventure or thriller slant and always with a focus on character.
Are there any specific books or authors that inspired you to start writing speculative fiction?
Spider Robinson was a writer I absorbed far younger than I probably should have, during trips across the country when my military family relocated. He was the first author I can remember studying for how he constructed things. 
Spider’s humor and his atmospheric settings drew me in, but his skill at constructing stories and his compassionate messages are what kept me reading.
Bradbury I also loved, for very similar reasons.
I’m new to shared world anthologies. Give me the run down on WALK THE FIRE. What kind of world is it? What kind of stories can I expect to read?
WALK THE FIRE takes place in a reality where a very, very few humans called Ferrymen walk through special fires and appear anywhere else a flame from that fire has been transported the normal way. When they walk through, they revert in age and appearance to what they were the first time the ‘crossed’. 

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FTC Stuff

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.