Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Trailblazer (Adventure by Association: The Everternia Saga, Book 1) by Zen DiPietro

Release date: September 12, 2019
 Subgenre: LitRPG, Steampunk

About Trailblazer:  

Equip new adventurers. Send them out to find their way in Everternia. Sally's purpose had always been clear.Newly awakened from that repetitive existence, she now sees her world from a new perspective. Life has become a puzzle, and there's nothing she loves more than a good puzzle.

The two people responsible for her awakening are as fascinated by Sally as she is with Everternia. She's not sure why that is, but she's giving the pair the benefit of the doubt, for now. Their foreign ways can be confounding, but with time, she'll figure out what makes them tick.

She has so much to learn about Everternia and about herself that she barely knows where to start. She wants to do it all, immediately, with great enthusiasm, and maybe even while wearing a pair of really nice pants. Her new curiosity and sense of adventure are growing by the minute, like cogs fitting together to transmit torque.

With nothing but her bravery, two natural-born adventurers, and her unusual skills as a streetmonger, her future is anything but certain.

That's okay. She's ready to leave behind her old life and certainty to out what she's made of. She's got her goggles, so she'll be looking at what everything else is made of, too.

She'll be a brand-new type of adventurer, like nothing Everternia has ever seen.




“So what are you going to do in Bracket?” Rex asked. “Are there some parts you have to buy for making stuff?”
“Something like that,” she agreed. “What about you?”
“I’ve got some stuff stored in a locker in Lazy Susan, and a buddy wants to buy it. I’ll probably hunt while I’m there, too, because why not?”
“Got to keep the learning going,” she said.
“Exactly. Do you get ranks for reading books like that?” He eyed the one in her lap.
“A little. It used to be more but it’s harder to advance now.”
He made a sound that was remarkably like that of a large steam engine. “It’s like that, isn’t it? Grind, grind, grind. Isn’t much different than Reallife, is it?” He grimaced. “Sorry. There I go again. Ignore that. What I mean is, if it’s all just work anyway, why bother? I’ve been thinking of taking a break from all this. That’s why I’m selling off some of my stuff. I mean, if it isn’t fun anymore, what’s the point, right?”
Reallife sounded like a bummer. No wonder people left it. Maybe she didn’t want to visit it, after all. He sounded like he wanted her to agree with him about the futility of his life, but she couldn’t.
“Maybe don’t grind, if you don’t like it,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“If it’s not fun and you don’t like it, then do something else. Find your own type of fun.”
His lips pressed together, and his big personality seemed to dial itself down as he grew serious. “What do you find fun, Sally Strong?”
It was a good question.
“I like new things. I like friends. I like laughing and growing. Those are the best.”
“So maybe if I stop working my ranks all the time and ease off the leveling, I could…what? What would I do?”
“You have friends?” she asked.
“Yeah. I mean, they’d gut me to steal from me if they could, but we hang out.”
“Sounds like not good friends,” she observed. “My friends make me happy.”
“Well,” he said, “I do tend to hang out with ratfinks and schmucks.”
Sally brightened. These were new words. She resolved to try them out in the near future in regard to people who were up to no good. “Find new friends. You’ll be happier.”
“Maybe you’re right.” He looked at her, apparently in deep contemplation. “Maybe I’m hanging with the wrong crowd. But, let’s be real. Look at me. You think people like that would make friends with a guy like me? I’m a thug.”
Sally shrugged. She saw nothing wrong with him. So he was big and brawny. There was nothing wrong with him. He looked like a thug, sure, but he also had tons of Easterner charisma. Everything about him was big and bright and filled the room, from his laugh to his big smile to how very thoughtful he looked when he got serious. “You’re as worthy as anyone else.”
“Am I?” he leaned forward, his gaze intent on her. He extended his left hand slowly, toward the book on her lap. He put a finger on the corner of the book. “Are you saying you’re not afraid of me right now?”
She returned his gaze, unflinching. “No. You don’t scare me.”
“Why not? I should.”
“You like churros, like I do. You have a nice smile. You’re looking for something, like me. I’m looking, too. Everyone’s looking. Why would you scare me?”
“Have you assessed me?” he asked.
She assessed him.
Unlawful Neutral
Level Sixty-two
Profession: Entrepreneur
Specialty: Thug
Rex is carrying six platinum coins.
Rex has nine hundred and twenty-eight platinum, sixty-seven gold, forty-eight silver, and two copper in electronic funds.
Rex is a formidable adversary, but not a concern for you.
Rex’s karma is bad.
Rex reminds you of a lost puppy.

She smiled. “Have you assessed me?”
She kept smiling, and he narrowed his eyes, looking at her with increased intensity.
“Hang on,” he said. “You could pound me into the dirt? What? How? You gonna beat me with your screwdriver?”
Sally grinned. “If I have to. But I’m better at taking things apart, piece by piece, from their foundation.”
Holy gasket, that sounded so cool! She’d gotten every word out just right, without slipping on any of the vowels.
For the first time since she met him, Rex looked uncertain. “Who are you?”
“Not sure yet,” she admitted. “I’m figuring it out.”
“Maybe I should stick around a little bit,” he mused. “Are you married, Sally?”
“To my screwdriver. Don’t get ideas.”




About Zen DiPietro:

Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, dreamer, and writer. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids.



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rare Birds: Stories by L.S. Johnson

Release date: September 17, 2019
Subgenre: Short fiction collection

About Rare Birds:


From 2017 World Fantasy Award finalist L.S. Johnson, the eight short stories in this collection look at the ties that bind and the transformations they provoke. Whether bound by love, blood, or violent circumstance, the characters in these tales are fundamentally altered by those closest to them … and not always for the better.

Two mothers become entwined in revenge against a violent man, with unexpected consequences. A roving gang of sirens finds themselves challenged from without and within. In a last, desperate act of love, a young surgeon goes under the knife. And in a distant territory, a mother and daughter struggle to survive—but the aid they summon is far more dangerous.

At turns brutal and tender, subtle and shocking, these stories blend realism, fantasy, and horror to create an unsettling—and unforgettable—experience.




Elsa knew she was no longer just right; she was becoming less right with every passing week. Neither the doctor’s prescription nor her own lotions had done anything to stop the rash that now covered her from head to foot. She had tried vitamins, powders, baths with salts and baths with oils; still the bumps spread and swelled, some with white heads now, some with nearly black ones as well as brown. Her family believed she must have eaten something poisonous, she would have to be patient and let it work its way through her. When they said this Elsa had thought Mary, but kept her mouth shut.
Had Elsa’s mother still been alive she might have said something different. Her mother had often told her bedtime stories that weren’t in books, stories from the old world, stories her mother’s mother had told, and her mother before that, and so on … Stories of women who were changed into things, river rocks and fleet deer, nightingales and sparrows and tall, twisting trees. Always they were betrayed in some fashion and then swiftly changed, to save them from a worse fate. And then she was no more of this world, her mother would always finish, and then she would pretend to show Elsa something from the woman in question—a leaf, a feather. But such endings had never felt like escapes to Elsa. They felt like condemnations, and her dreams would be filled with monstrous images of animals with women’s faces, their silent mouths screaming endlessly.
Only now did Elsa understand her child-self had been right, that those stories weren’t fantasies. They were warnings.


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About L.S. Johnson:

L.S. Johnson lives in Northern California, where she feeds her cats by writing book indexes. She is the author of the gothic novellas Harkworth Hall and Leviathan. Her first collection, Vacui Magia: Stories, won the North Street Book Prize and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cora's Adventures at Worldcon 77 in Dublin, Ireland

Convention Centre Dublin
Regular readers may remember that I was away at WorldCon 77 in Dublin, Ireland, last month. I had a great time and even got to attend the Hugo Awards.

The lobby of the CCD bids WorldCon 77 members welcome.

A look into the lobby from the second floor of the CCD.
WorldCon 77 took place at the Convention Centre Dublin, a spectacular, if somewhat impractical building. As a result, queues for panels were often long.

Queueing for panels at the CCD
Luckily, there were many other things to do at WorldCon 77, even if you couldn't get into a panel you wanted to see. The dealers room was well stocked and there was even a bonafide DeLorean on display, though we have no idea if it can really travel through time.

A DeLorean parked in the dealers room at WorldCon 77. Luckily, there are no parking tickets for time machines.
In addition to the CCD, WorldCon 77 also had a second location about 800 metres or one tram tram stop away, at Point Square, a newly built and partly empty entertainment and shopping complex.

Point Square

Point Square not only hosted some panels and most of the signings, but also the entire arts and crafts portion of WorldCon 77, including the art show, crafting workshops and displays.

Lego castle with an army gathering outside the gates on display at WorldCon 77

The rebel base on Hoth recreated in Logo, on display at WorldCon 77
A Lego plant monster attacks a town in this display at WorldCon 77. In the background, you can see part of the art show.
Bayeux tapestry with bonus TARDIS on display at WorldCon 77. Created by Janet Clark.

Point Square was also home to the Raksura Colony Tree project, a collaborative fibre art project to recreate the giant colony trees described in Martha Wells' Hugo nominated Books of Raksura series. The project was organised by Constanze Hofmann who also outdid herself getting the entire Point Square arts and craft display area set up.

Since I'm also a crafter, a joined the project and contributed a couple of pieces. We not only created a beautiful work of art, but also had a lot of fun.

Crafting the Raksura Colony Tree
Crafting the Raksura Colony Tree
The finished Raksura Colony Tree model

A closer look at the finished Raksura Colony Tree model

The Raksura Colony Tree with some of the many contributors to the project
Furthermore, I also got to attend the Hugo Awards Ceremony as the designated accepter for best fanzine finalist Galactic Journey. We didn't win, but I got to enjoy the Hugo Awards reception and I got to see the ceremony close-up. What was more, I wound up sitting right next to NASA astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps, who presented the best novel Hugo Award.

Contents of the Hugo finalist/accepter packet
At the Hugo reception
The auditorium at the Hugo ceremony
Mary Robinette Kowal wins the Hugo Award for Best Novel for "The Calculating Stars", presented by Dr. Jeanette Epps
Since Galactic Journey did not win a Hugo - the winner in the best fanzine category was the excellent Lady Business - I also got to go the Hugo Losers Party hosted by none other than George R.R. Martin himself. And because I was cold and shared a taxi with two others also going to the party, I also got lucky and arrived early enough to avoid the overcrowding issues that happened when the bulk of the finalists arrived by bus a little later.

George R.R. Martin takes the stage at the Hugo Losers Party
The Hugo Losers Party has spilled out onto the mezzanine of the Guiness Store House.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at WorldCon 77 in Dublin. And the airport even gave me a very Irish farewell, complete with a rainbow.

Rainbow over the airport. Yes, this really happened.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for September 13, 2019

It's time for another somewhat truncated weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Chapter 2 of It, Joker, GamerGate five years later, The Testaments by Maragret Atwood, WorldCon 77, NecronomiCon, DragonCon, debates about the Campbell/Astounding Award and the Tiptree Award, the 2019 Dragon Award winners and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Film and TV:

Comments on Chapter 2 of It:

Comments on Joker:

GamerGate Five Years Later:


Debates about awards name changes:

Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews: 


Reports about WorldCon 77:

Other con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: