Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ever the Hero by Darby Harn

Release date: January 28, 2019
Subgenre: Superheroes

About Ever the Hero


Superheroes are big business. Imagine not being able to afford them. 

Kit Baldwin just wants to make rent. The only work she can find in the ruins of her devastated city is scavenging for alien technology. When she finds a powerful alien weapon, her discovery pays off more than she could have hoped: it draws the attention of the most powerful of the superhuman Empowered, Valene.

Valene hears everything, everywhere. She suffers for it, and as they begin a precipitous romance, Kit believes she can use the weapon she’s scavenged to mitigate Valene’s pain. If she can’t, Valene will retreat to the soundlessness of space. Without Valene’s compassion, the stricken city is left to the mercy of Valene’s ruthless father, who denies the assistance the city needs unless it can pay for it.

As Valene’s condition worsens, Kit becomes more desperate and unleashes the full power of the alien weapon. In an instant, she is transformed into a being of cosmic power. She can acquire the knowledge and energy of anything – or anyone – she touches.




CHECK ONE: Empowered Powerless
     I bite my lip. “Is it a problem I don’t have any powers?”
     The woman from HR wrinkles her nose. Must be a problem. I can’t tell. I’m no good at interviews. I’m no good at people, which is unfortunate given how many of them there are. Focus. Check the box. An interview at Great Power is a big deal, even if it’s open. I should be grateful for the opportunity. I should be terrified, but I’m not. That part of me never got switched on. Maybe it never got installed. Doesn’t matter. I can’t afford to be afraid; I’ve got to find a job, and soon. If I don’t, Ma and I will be out on the street.
     “Generally, we employ Empowered,“ she says, and a stray lock of her hair levitates back in line with the rest. Telekinetic. Not telepathic, though; I probably wouldn’t have made it this far. “But some powerless work here. You can have superpowers, but not a brain.”
     “I have a brain,” I say. “Probably goes without saying.”
     “You’d be surprised.” She takes my application. “What is it you scrap and salvage?”
     Good thing she can’t read minds. “Anything.”
     A constant stream of people flows past me through the atrium of the Blackwood Building, one of the greatest engineering wonders in the world. The tower is a giant glass music box, all its floors, stairwells and elevator shafts exposed within a transparent shell free of any obvious architectural support. This woman frowning through my interview sees right through me, I think, but there’s no wonder.
     “You didn’t go to college?”
     I sit up straight. Smooth out the wrinkles in this blouse I thought was decent leaving the apartment, but now feels like someone else’s skin. “My dad died. My mom… I take care of her. It’s just the two of us. So a job here would be – ”
     “I don’t live over there,” she says, wiggling her fingers toward the west, “but I’d think at twenty-seven, you’d have a lot more experience than you do. Retail. Something.”
     I’ve loads of experience. Most of it doesn’t go on a resume. “Jobs are hard to come by across the river.”
     “Your accent. What is that?”
     My lips twist together. “My mother is Irish.”
     “I was going to say. I didn’t think there were, you know.” She wiggles her fingers again. “Black Irish.”
     “Do you have a pen? You’ll need to sign an NDA.”
     She smiles. Sort of. “What brought her over?”
     “I suppose she thought she was going to get a job here.”
     The woman puts on one of those smiles people wear, meant to convey sympathy. “What was your name again?”


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About Darby Harn:

Darby Harn is the author of the forthcoming novel EVER THE HERO. His fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone and other venues. He graduated from the University of Iowa and studied in the Irish Writing Program at Trinity College, in Dublin. 

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for January 24, 2020

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with an uproar about a story in Clarkesworld, the suspension of Courtney Milan from RWA and the subsequent implosion of the organisation, Star Trek: Picard, The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian and Star Wars in general, series 12 of Doctor Who, The Witcher, Dolittle, Avenue 5, tributes to Christopher Tolkien, Terry Jones and Neil Peart and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on the story "I sexually identify as an attack helicopter" by Isabel Fall in Clarkesworld:

Comments on the suspension of Courtney Milan from RWA and the cancellation of the 2020 Rita Awards:

Film and TV:

Comments on Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek in general (warning, possible spoilers):

Comments on series 12 of Doctor Who (spoilers):

Comments on The Witcher:

Comments on The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian and Star Wars in general (warning: spoilers):

Comments on Avenue 5:

Comments on Dolittle:


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews: 

Con and event reports: 


Science and technology: 

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Cora is a 2020 GUFF Candidate

The ballot for the 2020 Going Under Fan Fund (GUFF) race has been announced and I am one of the candidates.

What is GUFF, you ask? The Going Under a.k.a. Get Up and Over Fan Fund is a great project which sends fans from Europe to Australia/New Zealand and vice versa. This year a European fan/fans gets to go to CoNZealand, the 2020 WorldCon in Wellington, New Zealand.

This year, we have six GUFF candidates and a total of eight people on the ballot, namely Hisham El-Far and Lee Fletcher from the UK, Hanna Hakkarainen from Finland, Elizabeth Jones and Claire Rousseau from the UK, Dave Lally from the UK, Alison Scott from the UK and of course yours truly. All of them are awesome people and I'm honoured to be in such company. You can find out more about the candidates at the GUFF site and at File 770.

If you'd like to know more about what I'm doing apart from the Speculative Fiction Showcase, here is a handy round-up post of all my SFF-related writings of 2019. In 2020, I also started the 1945 Retro Hugo recommendation spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews, a site focussed on reviewing vintage science fiction and fantasy.

I'd also like to thank my nominators, Jo Van Ekeren and Camestros Felapton from Australasia and Adrienne Joy, Kári Tulinius and Mark Yon from Europe as well as June Young and Hampus Eckerman, who were also willing to nominate me, but aren't listed on the ballot.

So how does it work? Simple. You make a donation to GUFF and fill out the ballot, which may be found here. The votes are ranked, similar to Hugo voting, i.e. you rank your first choice first, your second choice second, etc... There also are the options "no preference", which means that you want to support GUFF and want one of the candidates to go, but don't particularly care who, and "hold over funds", which is like "no award" at the Hugos. You can vote until April 13, 2020.

Who can vote? Anyone anywhere in the world who makes a donation to GUFF and has been active in SFF fandom (e.g. attending cons, running fanzines and fansites, reviewing books and movies, participating in online discussions or engaging in other fannish activities) since at least January 2018.

Let me also give a shout-out to DUFF, the Down Under Fan Fund, a similar project which sends fans from North America to Australasia and vice versa. The 2020 DUFF race is also currently open for voting with four great candidates. The official ballot is here.

What happens if I win? Well, first of all I get to attend WorldCon in New Zealand and meet fans from the other side of the world, which is pretty damn awesome in itself. And you get to vicariously participate in my adventures, because a GUFF winner is required to produce a trip report. So if you enjoyed my reports about WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, my two-part report about WorldCon 77 in Dublin or my report about the local Steampunk con Steamfest in Papenburg, you can expect something along those lines, only with more waterfalls.

And if someone else wins? Well, then you'll also get a trip report, though one with a different protagonist. But most importantly, you'll have supported a great fan-run project, which is entirely funded by donations.

So what are you waiting for? Donate and vote for me or one of the other great GUFF candidates.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Steel City, Veiled Kingdom - The Complete Edition by Danielle Williams

Release date: January 11, 2020
Subgenre: Science Fantasy

About Steel City, Veiled Kingdom:


Jerimin Icarii’s life is in shambles. Once an ambitious young scientist, years of hardship on the streets of his homeworld have transformed him into a desperate man, willing to do anything to get his life back.

In his darkest hour, he strikes a deal with the bizarre Queen of the faerie world. Now her supernatural powers help him keep up appearances while he claws his way back into society. The longer he keeps up the charade, the closer he gets to respect, wealth, and glory. But one slipup will get him killed.

And that’s not even the dangerous part. Because the cost of the Queen’s aid is obedience to her every whim. And Jerimin never knows what she’ll make him do next…

Steel City, Veiled Kingdom is a science fantasy overflowing with intrigue, adventure, and colorful characters you’ll love (and a few you’ll love to hate). It’s the perfect story for any sci-fi/fantasy lover looking for an immersive, inventive read.

Steel City, Veiled Kingdom: The Complete Edition presents the entire story as it was originally envisioned--as a single, complete, epic-length novel. The Complete Edition is only available in digital format at this time. However, all 5 parts of the story are offered as individual volumes in both digital and paperback and are listed here:

Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, Part 1: Surface
Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, Part 2: Going Underground
Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, Part 3: Buried
Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, Part 4: Forces of Attraction
Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, Part 5: Children of Change




Oceans at the Edge


I once tried to run into the sea to drown myself, but the water never rose higher than my skinny fourteen-year-old calves.
It didn’t take long before I found the end of the sea, a glass wall at the very edge of the tower. Jets pumped recirculated water through slots aimed at my ankles. I stared through the glass at the steel city before me. If climbed over, I could jump, and if I jumped, I’d fall. I’d close my eyes and pretend I was flying—at least, until the first autokinet smashed into me. It’d be a quick death—the machines never stopped in time—and a better one than the injection in store for me when I failed my final set of tests.
At least this way I get to choose.
My palm had just kissed the glass when my father grabbed me from behind.
I twisted, but he was too strong. He hauled me, his only son, through the water, back to where my mother screamed and people avoided looking at us. My escape had failed.
I’d been paying for that day’s cowardice ever since. You see, I didn’t score low enough on my final Kakuri-Majinuri tests to warrant death—but my numbers weren’t high enough to declare me a safe member of society. I fought the judgment for a couple years, but I eventually got the message and stopped.
Fifteen years later, there was no water. And no wall, either. I’d found another edge, on an unfinished street. No one would see.
The autokinets thundered at the base of the skyscraper city.
I took a breath, closed my eyes…
And swore. Why did I have to do this? I never did anything wrong! I never hurt anyone—never wanted to! I’d just been judged unfairly—the tests were wrong!
But my anger changed nothing. The KM numbers made me unemployable, so I was penniless. The numbers made me dangerous, so I was friendless, even among the other city castoffs. And, worst of all, the numbers made me honorless, so I had no family.
The numbers had stolen my future, and I couldn’t get it back. It wasn’t fair, but I saw no other solution.
The world grew dim as dusk arrived. I took a step towards the edge—
—and was grabbed from behind again.
But instead of being dragged away, I was swung to the ground. Dazed, I stared up into the face of a pale-skinned woman with wild black hair. Her hand pressed on my heart, pinning me down.
“Do not,” she said. “I need you.”


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About Danielle Williams: 


Danielle Williams is the author of (so far) four novels and nearly a dozen other tales of wonder, horror and humor, including Debuts and Dragons, The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t from Delaware and The Witching License. Explore her full collection of stories at www.PixelvaniaPublishing.com today.