Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cora's Adventures at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland


Entrance to the Messukeskus convention center.

As regular visitors of this site will know, I was away at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki last week. The con took place at the Messukeskus convention centre, which you can see above.

It's a nice venue. However, the sheer number of SFF fans who descended upon Helsinki, 7323 altogether according to the WorldCon 75 team, proved to be too much for the convention centre. Queuing for panels was a frequent experience and sales of day passes had to be limited after the first day.

Queuing for panels
 
However, even if you failed to get into a popular panel (which happened to me only once), there was still plenty to see at WorldCon 75, such as this blacksmith presentation outside the Messukeskus convention center.

Blacksmith presentation and shop
Inside the trade and exhibition hall, there was plenty to see and buy as well:

Signposts inside the exhibition hall
Mad Max and Terry Pratchett characters from Lego inside the exhibition hall
Terry Pratchett character from Lego on display in the exhibition hall, including a Lego figurine of Sir Terry himself.

I didn't get to watch a Hugo Awards ceremony live, because it clashed with one of my panels. So I followed the announcements of the winners via Twitter, while having dinner at the hotel restaurant. However, there were plenty of Hugo Awards past and present to see at WorldCon 75.

Hugo Award trophies on display
Display model of a 2017 Hugo Award
I was also a programme participant and so I was on four different panels, on subjects ranging from alien language in science fiction and machine translation to book blogs and how to adapt the Hugo Awards to an increasingly digital world. I even moderated one of the panels, which was a first for me.

The Digital Hugo panel, featuring (from left to right) myself, 2017 Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte and our moderator Kristina Knaving.
On the evening before the convention opened, there was also a reception for convention staff and programme participants at Helsinki's beautiful city hall.

Reception at Helsinki City Hall. 
All in all, I had a great time at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki and am already looking forward to the 2019 WorldCon, which will be in Dublin, Ireland.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rotten Magic (The Artifice Mage Saga prequel) by Jeffrey Bardwell

Release date: August 9, 2017
Subgenre: Steampunk fantasy 

About Rotten Magic:

 

Devin will do anything to win. Even resort to magic.

Devin competes to become the best artificer in the mage phobic Iron Empire. Who needs magic when you can master the art of machinery? The other apprentices envy his genius and skills . . . especially Benson. Every apprentice hones their craft building and fighting in crude prototypes of powered armor. Some add frills, others barbs or horns. When Devin transforms himself into a mechanical dragon to slaughter the competition, Benson steps into the role of dragon slayer.

But Devin harbors a secret as he claws his way to the top of the Artificer's Guild: he's a mage. These new abilities are thrilling and frightening, and the voices more so. How long can Devin be content wearing a steel dragon mask when the seductive promise of true arcane power whispers in his ear?

Experience the novella prequel to the Artifice Mage Saga: a fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody's hands are clean.

Excerpt:

 

Do they suspect? Devin thought, stealing furtive glances at the Black Guards. Do they know? Are they waiting, lurking, gathering evidence against me? The Black Guards kept the streets safe. His mother had always told him and his sister that. If you're ever in any trouble, find a guard. They will shelter you and punish the wicked. They protect us against killers, against thieves, against those whose crimes are too horrible to name, and most of all, they protect us from the mages.
Black Guards hunting us everywhere, the mage growled. It is the magic users who need protection from them.
The guards are merely the sweepers of the city machine, the artificer smiled,cleaning garbage off the streets.
Garbage? the mage cried.
Just like every other criminal, the artificer said, crossing his arms.
Devin looked at the calluses on his hands. But I'm not a criminal. I'm an artificer.
Neither voice in his mind replied as the youth looked up at the glorious symbol of the city's artifice princes. The ancient Guild Hall of Artificers rose above adjacent more recent buildings like a quiet old man kneeling amongst a crowd of garish babies. There was an unassuming grandeur to those time-stained, smooth granite walls. The masters took pains to preserve the aesthetics of the outside even as they implemented every new gadget and technology inside, but always with restraint and style. As Master Huron always said: “It is not just our duty to build, but to inspire. Why can't a machine be beautiful as well as functional?”
Drusilla was waiting by the gates of the Guild Hall as she did every morning. His steadfast best friend slung a welding apron over one shoulder. The scent of the wild forest lingered on the leather. How a gal from the heart of the city managed to smell like moss and elderberries, Devin never knew. The girl teased a stick from her hair and smiled as he approached.
Hear about the new Mark 3 Drake Armor?” Drusilla asked, walking alongside him.
New mechanical armor? Since when?“No,” Devin said.
There was a demonstration in the market yesterday. I tried to find you, but you went and vanished again.” Drusilla laughed. “Still working on that secret project, eh?”
Every chance I get.” Devin smiled. “It's going to be good enough to be my journeyman's piece. It's going to change the world.”
Not like this new armor,” Drusilla shook her head, eyes flashing. “It was awesome, Dev. The tiny gears and servos in the fingers are top rate. The precision. The sheer artistry. They had a man dressed in the suit knitting a little scarf with tiny, little needles. Knitting with a suit of mechanical armor. Those gauntlets are the size of your head. Fantastic!”
Knitting? Really?” Devin chuckled. “Are they going to chase down thieves with tiny, hand knit handcuffs, now?”
She clucked. “Even you have to admit it's impressive. Any mech gauntlets we create can barely grasp a cheap, wooden sword.”
Devin smiled. “Feh, swords. I prefer claws.”


Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple iTunes | Google Play


About Jeffrey Bardwell:


Jeffrey Bardwell is an ecologist with a Ph.D. who loves fantasy, amphibians, and reptiles. The author devours fantasy and science fiction novels, is most comfortable basking near a warm wood stove, and has eaten a bug or two. The author populates his own novels with realistic, fire breathing lizards. These dragons are affected by the self-inflicted charred remains of their environment, must contend with the paradox of allometric scaling, and can actually get eaten themselves.

The author lives on a farm, is perhaps overfond of puns and alliterations, and is a gigantic ham. When not in use, he keeps his degrees skinned and mounted on the back wall of his office.

Website | Blog

Friday, August 18, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for August 18, 2017


I'm back from WorldCon and here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with WorldCon 75, the Hugo Awards, dystopian fiction, urban fantasy, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding campaigns, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Awards:

Reports about WorldCon 75:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Other con reports:

Crowdfunding:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for August 11, 2017


Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web. This week's edition is somewhat truncated, because Cora is away at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on The Dark Tower

Comments on the Confederate controversy:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Frigga's Lost Army by Juli D. Revezzo

Release date: July 17, 2017
Subgenre: Norse mythology, historical fantasy

About Frigga's Lost Army

 

In the winter of 1943, Benjamin is just a grunt and Army cook—until he finds himself captured, along with his unit, taken prisoner by Mussolini's troops after the Battle of Tunisia.

Transported to a POW camp in Italy, Benjamin is plagued with intense visions of the Norse Goddess Frigga and her retinue of Valkyries, berserkers, and other magical beings.

When he encounters a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to the goddess, he wonders if he hasn’t been entangled in a battle between the natural and the supernatural—a battle for the present and the future.

Excerpt:

 

The blond soldier slipped inside the fence, and as he did so, Benjamin could better discern the fiend’s words: Fascist rhetoric, but—
His attention caught a strange lilt to the speech; it seemed split along two frequencies. Underneath the propagandistic poison sounded the alluring, bewitching voice of a poet, making promises Benjamin couldn’t believe.
“Be calm, son; be still. Observe. It will not be long.”
The soldier smiled, and Benjamin gulped in confused fear.
“Your fear is logical,” the soldier continued, “but don’t let it cloud your vision or you’ll miss your chance, understand?”
Benjamin gasped, and the words barely squeaked past his lips, “No, sir.”
The soldier stepped back and Benjamin’s vision blurred, only to regain focus in an instant. He saw himself for a moment, dark blond hair dirty and matted under his war helmet, his thin jaw clenched. Rage tinged his face and eyes. He wondered if his mother would call him baby-cheeked anymore. Though he was the platoon cook, he’d had far less to eat lately than in years past.
Now, the landscape changed and Benjamin stood before the towering soldier, no fence between them, the cloudless African skyline replaced by the vision of a finely crafted hall. The man, too, seemed different: he no longer sported the uniform of those faithful to the enemy, but the fine clothing, and jewels of a king out of Medieval legend.
Celtic legend, if he wasn’t mistaken.
A table spread long before him laden with gleaming gold goblets, and Benjamin for a moment saw his own face in them, as he suspected, dirtied from the grit and sweat of the fight, marked with smoke and dust, blue eyes tired with little lines of exhaustion easily seen in the reflection. He was nineteen but wondered what it felt like to be ancient. Ninety years, surely, had passed since he’d so proudly entered the recruitment office. Ages ago, instead of only one year.
Then the scent of the food turned his attention away from the gleaming mirror image. Plates filled the space laden with steaks so succulent he wished he could take some to his friends.
The king pulled his attention away from the feast, though he spoke in a gentle voice,
“I can put it no more plainly, son. Keys break if stressed too much. They can even be deadly in the hands of an angry woman. Keep watch for her; you will see what I mean.”
Keys. He could think of no woman in Celtic mythology who used them as a symbol, but then, he’d long ago forgotten his mythology. Of whom did the king speak?
The king seemed to await his answer, so Benjamin nodded—or thought he did. “An angry woman. What do you mean? How—”
The king smiled, cut him off, “We despise what’s happening in Midgard—as her people call your world—and We are seeing to the matter. Don’t give up. You will know soon. You will be home, soon.”
Midgard?
Benjamin closed his eyes; when he opened them, the camp returned, and the sea green eyed soldier disengaged his attention. Another took his place, dividing their platoon up….
 

Amazon


About Juli D. Revezzo:

Juli D. Revezzo loves fantasy and Celtic mythology and writing stories with all kinds of fantastical elements. She is the author of the historical romances, House of Dark Envy, Watchmaker's Heart, and Lady of the Tarot, the Antique Magic paranormal series and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series and more. She is also a member of the Independent Author Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour.
 


Monday, August 7, 2017

The 2250 Saga by Nirina Stone

Launch date: 7th-14th August 2017
Sub-genre: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic

About the 2250 Saga:


The 2250 Saga is a Dystopian Action-Adventure based in the fictional world of Apex.

Follow Romy over ten years of her life as she tries to survive living as a Citizen in the world of autocratic Prospos and Soren Terrorists.


In this edition, you will find: Romy, Romy's Legacy and Romy's Last Stand.


Excerpt:


I prepare to run towards my right, where the hallway will lead towards my exit and the waiting team.
But I stop in my tracks when I hear a familiar hissing, bumping sound that could only be an Incinerator. I freeze, tilt my ear to the left and listen. It's definitely here, behind another set of sliding doors. These doors would not be locked, because Incinerators don't need to be secured.
Knowing that this is not a part of my assignment, knowing that I'm losing precious time, I can't help myself. I turn left, away from the hall to the exit. I have to see. I need to see.
Walking through the sliding doors, I stop where the machine huffs and burns in front of me. It sits towards the back and right of the room, its massive exhaust pipe reaching up through the tall ceilings.
Its ugly light gray body makes the floors and walls in the room rumble, and I can see that it's well on its way to destroying piles of physical books that are already falling, in twos and threes, down its chute.
I hear the half second hiss as each book burns, and walk towards the electric counter for the Incinerator to shut it down. For good.
This will take a while, and they will find a way to fix it. But if I tell my team exactly how many books are lined up in this room, we will find a way to come back in here and rescue them.
There are well over two thousand books along the far wall, waiting to be destroyed. Who knows how many of those are the only copy left in this world, with its exact words, its exact ideas?
Sorry mother, I think. It's worth it. One less Incinerator in the world is a good thing. So I get to work. It is a slightly different model than the one we had in the Azure library, so it takes me a moment to figure out how to wreck it. I have to be quick though.
There is no ‘Off’ switch on an Incinerator. It is turned on and off remotely, so I have no option but to break it from here. Every time I hear another flash and hiss, another book or four are gone, forever. I flinch, but continue to work.
And that's when Sheppard grabs me.
I didn't hear him over the rumbling loud sounds of the Incinerator. But I'm certain it's him because he's choking me. I see the muscles of his forearm ripple and clench while he pulls me away, his wall of a body flush on my back.
I scratch and punch and pull at his arm, but he's too big. He's too strong, and I'm having a hard time breathing. My legs kick the air uselessly when he picks me up with the other arm wrapped around my ribs. He starts towards the other end of the Incinerator. The burning end.





About Nirina Stone:






Nirina Stone is a NY Times and USA Today Bestseller of Dystopian and Post-Apocalypse novels.

When she was seven, she planned to grow up as a ballet-dancing nun by day and crime-fighting vigilante by night...using ballet.
A lot has changed since then, except for her silly day-dreams.

Nowadays, she imagines being a super-sleuth android assassin living on a Mars-like planet in a different universe. But since that's unlikely, she's writing about it instead.
Stay tuned for the new series, The Allendian Post-Apocalypse, with Petra (Book 1) coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy The 2250 Saga of which all 3 books, and 'The Vorkian' novella are available now.