E-Magazine Review: Blindspot: Testing Reality, Issue 1

3 of 5 stars.

In an effort to promote French sci-fi and to bridge the American and French sci-fi communities, Angle Mort was founded in 2010. That team has now launched this magazine, edited by Julien Wacquez, in its mission to translate French science fiction into English.

The first issue of Blindspot contains four short stories, which I’ve previously reviewed, and interviews with all four contributing authors and a contributing artist. The interviews are a great touch to really delve into the author’s mindset.

Judging by these four stories, French and American sci-fi are distant cousins separated more than by mere language. This is not a bad thing. It’s akin to watching French and American film. Most American films feel Hollywood for better or for worse. English-language sci-fi tends toward fantasy–building elaborate apocalyptic scenarios or layered off-planet societies etc. These four French tales are veered toward the existential in a way less embraced by American writing which usually stops at depicting psychological benders if not straight forward tales.

The included tales are:
Dunyach, Jean-Claude–“Landscape with Intruders”–3 stars
D’Asciano, Jean-Luc Andre–“The First Tree in the Forest”–4 stars
Hotait, Darine–“I Come From Future”–2 stars
Charrasse, Fanny–“Record of a Growth”–3 stars

I look forward to future issues as the tales broaden the definition of science fiction and the interviews provide invaluable insight. I received my copy of this issue directly from one of the editors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Novella Review: The Two Paupers by C. S. E. Cooney

The Two Paupers (Dark Breakers Book 2)The Two Paupers by C.S.E. Cooney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many things hold true power in this world and in others just beyond the Veil: love, kindness, and creation [as in honest, unfettered artistic creation]. But none of these is necessarily the easiest path, and that is the crux of their power.

With a rogue’s tone not unlike Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards and a convoluted relationship between this realm and a Fae realm, such as in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, this novella presents a stand-alone sequel [indeed, I haven’t read the first, but will now . . .] in which two talented but struggling artists dance around some very grave issues. Gideon, the well-heeled sculptor, has been cursed to carve statues that come to life like warrior golems. He destroys them almost as soon as he makes them. Analiese, the farm-born writer living next door, sees one not yet destroyed the moment its eyes open. Knowing its fate, she steals it away to save it.

She hides the golem away at her newly married friend Elliot’s house. He’s a talented painter and married to the ex-Queen Nix of the Fae Realm. It’s one of the usurpers in Nix’s absence that has cursed Gideon to make warrior golems in order to build an army and secure secession to the throne.

Loyalty to each other, wit, talent and artistic vision all play an intricate role as each tries to secure the best outcome for all the players involved and keep the others safe from harm . . . In a word, this tale is brilliant.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Witch, Beast, Saint: An Erotic Fairy Tale”.




[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Acres of Perhaps” by Will Ludwigsen

4 of 5 stars.

Hollywood, La-La Land, is a place of stories: the true stories, the stories one tells oneself, the stories one tells others, and the stories that make it onto the screen. Sometimes, the real story is a blend of all of the above, and the writer is merely another supporting character. This tale follows one such writer learning about the knotted web of stories he’s fallen into.

Barry writes for a B-rated sci-fi television series in the 1960’s called Acres of Perhaps. He’s hard on himself and considers himself adequate, but winces at the accolades heaped upon his young, wunderkind writing partner, David. David is the out-there idea guy that can’t write fast enough. When he’s not writing, he’s drinking and likely whoring. Whereas, Barry’s struck being the safe, straight foil to David’s genius. . . except Barry’s not straight, and most of America isn’t ready for the living arrangement Barry has with Tony . . .

One day when David not on set, a beautiful young woman, Melody, and her stern yokel family show up looking for Leroy, aka David. She’s his wife and he’s wanted back in the mountains of North Carolina. Barry finds David/Leroy that night and hears David’s side of a supernatural event that lead him to running away from his beautiful wife and his life, and got him to telling stories . . .

This is a touching story about lives lived and opportunities missed, stories told and truths revealed. I recommend the tale, especially for the development of the secondary characters of Tony and Melody.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Graphology of Hemorrhage” by Yoon Ha Lee

2 of 5 stars.

In folklore and fantasy, different magic systems draw power and influence [or glamour] from various sources. One recurring source is language and writing despite language being mostly arbitrary and writing being variably arbitrary. The representation of the word [graphic or spoken] completes the link for the magic.

In this tale, nations use graphological magic and magic users to wage war. In particular, a talented magic user, Kodai, and her apprentice, Nawong, attempt to overcome the empire’s enemies whom they call “The Spiders” since the enemy’s word for themselves is similar to the imperial word for spiders–yet another arbitrary linguistic link with real ramifications. Kodai is well-versed in the ways of calligraphy and forgery and decides on a route of attack that will render the Spider language obsolete and bleed her enemies into non-existence–thus, the graphology of hemorrhage. Unfortunately, doing so threatens to redact herself from language and history, too . . .

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Combustion Hour”, “Falcon-and-Sparrows” and “Wine”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Graphic Novel Review: Liberty: Deception by Travis Vengroff

Liberty page 35 colors jpg

A new outer world universe premieres in Travis Vengroff’s Liberty: Deception in which an Earth outpost beyond our solar system gets cut off from the rest of humanity.  The “civilized” peoples of their world live in the lone city, Atrius, seen in the image above from Volume 1.  The urban images are stunning thanks to lead artist Raymund Bermudez and his team.  Images like that are often reserved for the cover, but this beauty hides on page 35 among other hidden gems.

But wall art aside, it’s the story here which ensnares.  Beyond the borders of this one-city system, are fringe communities deprived of resources in every possible way.  Not surprisingly, fringers resort to stealing and less savory activities including cannibalism for survival.  [Incidently, the novel I’m reading also depicts a sci-fi cannibalistic culture . . .] This is a fractured community of gangs & gangsters, cultists & sadists, and most of all cannibals. Issue 0 of the series is currently available and depicts but 1 of many gangs. The art in this issue, by Casey Bailey, is even more consistent and mood-setting. I especially enjoy the dialect of Claw’s crew, the Conways:

Also available at this time is the Liberty: Fringe Iconography Guide by Atrius’ professor, Dr. Kovski. The world-building is evident in the inclusion of culture and style guides for the various subgroups. But also impressive is the willingness of Liberty’s creative team’s inclusion of the reader into the world building. Their podcast, Nerdy Show, contains research segments from the fictional Dr. Kovski, too, all in an effort to make the world immersive and multi-media.

Liberty: Fringe Iconography GuideLiberty: Fringe Iconography Guide

However, it is Volume 1 which brings the meat and potatoes to this world. Atrius is under the firm control of Archon Reeve who controls all peoples and media within. Propaganda is rife. The hero of Atrius, Tertulius Justus, is the most decorated citizen in history for his actions in keeping Atrius safe from the dastardly Fringers. He is also a fraud and a construct not unlike Captain America–he’s an actor playing his role at Archon Reeve’s whim until she’s done with him, and the populous is none-the-wiser. Brilliant.

Available now are the podcasts, Issue 0 and the Liberty: Fringe Iconography Guide. Volume 1 is due out in October, but this crew has a kickstarter to aid in production, but also to offer a great way for the fans and supporters to get involved and possibly to even show up on the page as a villain or hero of Atrius.

Writer Interview: Gabe Yocum of Double Take’s Remote #3

Double Take, a new comic book company based out of NYC, started publishing its first series, Night of the Living Dead Revival in September 2015. The series is comprised of 10 separate titles which to date have been released as 3 Super Packs: containing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd issues of each title.

Gabe Yocum, Double Take’s Sales and Marketing Coordinator and the primary writer for the title Remote #3, came to Chicago for a comic signing. We met up for dinner and this interview. The Remote title follows radio host Samantha Stanton as the lone surviving station employee during the early hours of a zombie pandemic. Noteably, the Remote title is the most LGBT-inclusive in the Double Take Universe with no less than 3 queer primary and secondary characters in a pre-Stonewall era. Other titles push the envelope for racial issues, including multi-racial relationships and the dynamics of police-minority interactions.

JAFFA: Gabe, you’ve been the Sales and Marketing Coordinator since 6 months prior to the publication of the first issues. How did your role evolve to become also primary writer for the Remote #3 issue?

GABE: Having worked in small market radio for 7 years, for issue #2, I consulted. I wrote the news copy. And anytime Samantha Stanton was on the air, she was saying my words.

In our preliminary story crafting session for Issue #3, i asked for the opportunity to take a shot at writing the script.

J: Those story crafting sessions sound rather interesting. A fan of the Night of the Living Dead Revival had a question as to “how publishers dole out information about the universe to the writers.” Are the story crafting sessions the short answer?

G: Yes and no, the story crafting sessions are very focused on the individual title in question. But as a publisher crafting an entire universe, we felt it was important to create a master document that defines the rules of our world–what can and can’t happen and the ultimate endgame of the stories we are telling.

J: Speaking of telling stories, woven throughout NotLDR are Moth-style stories independent of the larger arcs. These latest issues even contained bios for these secondary storytellers. Your issue included one such story with Michaela Murphy’s “You Can’t Trust a Pond.” Walk me through the process of writing a story that contains another written by someone else.

G: What we’ve found in creating a new universe and, thus, many new characters is the importance of imbuing them with a backstory or some context from which the reader can draw conclusions about the characters. The stories we’ve collected have allowed us to give our brand new characters new dimensions and to flesh them out into much more well-rounded personalities.

For fan meet-and-greets and signings, Gabe will be appearing:
Feb 26th, 2016 at Aw Yeah Comics in Skokie, IL [5-7pm]
March 5th, 2016 at 4th World Comics in Smithtown, NY [2-4pm]
March 17-20 at C2E2 in Chicago holding down the Double Take booth.

As of this writing, Gabe has sent the script for Remote #4 to editing and is in the process of writing Remote #5, both due out by mid-summer.

Hollywood How-To: Making Great Books Into Not-So-Great Movies

A couple days back, I finished reading and reviewing The Martian by Andy Weir–in a nutshell, it’s pretty darned good. 5 stars. Now the movie will be hitting Oct 2nd starring a stellar cast [both pun and compliment intended], I hope it does the book justice.

But, I’ve been let down before.

Part of the problem of a movie not living up to a promising book’s expectations lies with the readers. We envision a character or house or scene or accent a certain way. But a movie is never the same on screen as in your head. Never. Sometimes that’s okay because the movie manages to overwhelms us with exactly how over-the-top and all-consuming they create an ambiance in ways a reader would be hard pressed to. Think Hogwarts, or Diagon Alley from Harry Potter movies, or nearly every scene in Lord of the Rings. These movies were so immersive they left little room for nit-picking on the epic scale.

Sometimes, the problem is that a writer’s style of writing doesn’t translate well to the screen. Voice-over narration in movies never feels as intimate as internal dialogue from first person narrators in books.

When I think back at my disappointment with the cinematic Golden Compass, I don’t know that I can even put my finger on the disconnect. But it was there. Probably, in dozens of little ways. Since I really enjoyed the source trilogy, it was especially disappointing to realize that the rest of the series would never get made since the first installment didn’t work. I felt that way about Avatar: the Last Airbender, too. It wasn’t a book, but the source material failed to translate to the live action big screen as planned.

Certainly, sometimes Hollywood makes the necessary changes to compensate for what is lost from the book. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is great. So, is the movie. And not necessarily in the same way. And that’s ok. A little Oprah and the little Whoopie Goldberg can go a long way . . .

Have you been disappointed by an movie adaptation? And what book would you like to see make it to the big screen?

My answer to the latter question is Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. Someone even bought the rights. But I worry. The first book is compared to The Hunger Games but the comparison doesn’t hold for the sequel, Golden Son, so I hope whoever makes it, does so with only the series at hand on their mind and not some formula that worked for a different series. I guess I’ll find out.

An Editing Habit

I have a writer’s confession: I hand-write my first drafts in blank books. Not until I’ve finished a chapter, do I type it up accomplishing my first edit in this process. This works for me. Mostly, because I studied writing poetry which can be a very intimate process and I like for my hand-writing to have a role in that intimacy. Once I put it in the computer, all further forms of the piece are generated and edited on the computer.

This is not the normal for someone writing a novel series–I get that. Many people believe one should just write, write, write [and they mean type, type, type] and worry about the editing later. Perhaps they fear that the novel may never get done by my method. But I’m over halfway done with the base writing of the second novel in the series, so it does work. I have 16 chapters written, 15 of them typed and 1 waiting for me to type it. And I will. All before I start on chapter 17. It is also while I am typing a chapter that I enter notes into my information outline in which I record all character names and characteristics, chronologies and unique word definitions.

Mostly, I dislike lugging a laptop around. Yet, I like getting away from my house to write. Coffee shops, the beach, parks, pubs–all good writing spots in my eyes.

It does have me curious, though, as to the process of other writers . . .

GenCon and Hoosier Hospitality

Next week, GenCon will be all the rage in Indianapolis. While it has the LARPing of other Cons, this is the largest American game convention: board games and video games. The fine people of Catan will be trying to set a new world record for simultaneous Catan players [to beat their last record from 2 years ago at 800+] I do love and collect board games and will be stalking the demo tables most of Friday. [Maybe joining the Catan-a-thon.]

GenCon also has a huge fantasy and sci-fi writers symposium. I will be sitting in on many discussions: anatomy of a fight scene, eliciting emotional responses, atmospheric writing, common people in epic conflicts, action scenes, killing off characters, researching stories, dialogue and dialogue tags, description through dialogue, character voice, heroic pairs, magic and the modern world, worthy opponents, and supporting cast [real people vs. plot devices]. Yes, that’s a lot of lectures, but I have 3 days and plenty of time to watch games.

I’ll also be hearing a few authors speak that I reviewed this past year. Firstly, Patrick Rothfuss [The Lightning Tree and The Slow Regard of Silent Things] will talk for 2 hours my first night. There will also be a panel of writers from the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 on my final night. Nothing beats listening to an author speak that you’ve just read and enjoyed.

I imagine I’ll pick up a book or two while I’m there also. Drop a line if you’re heading Indiana-way. This year I’ll try to remember the change in time zone and not show up late . . .

Readers, Reviewers and Spoilers

You’ve seen it: the *SPOILER ALERT,* whether in a book review or movie review or television show recap. Seriously, one should not be reading re-caps and commentary on their shows if one is worried about spoilers. But, nevertheless the spoiler-averse culture has emerged. If you missed a season-finale, you need to avoid Facebook until you’ve caught up for such shows as Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Orphan Black . . .

I’ve a confession, I don’t care about spoilers. I don’t. But many do, so I avoid printing them inadvertently. I don’t even put up warning, I just don’t write the spoiler. But it vexes me, as I studied literature and merit how a story is told, over the what. With movies, and shows, I care how the scene is shot and the written material honored. If the worth of the story is in the surprise, what is the re-watch-ability? Why re-read anything?

Romeo’s gonna die. Done, I said it. Spoiled it, I guess. And only centuries after it was written. There has to be a time-limit to a spoiler, in my opinion. If you missed the end of Six Feet Under or The Sopranos, I’m sorry but you cannot chastise anyone for spoiling it for you. There is a statute of limitations.

At some point in the last year, I went from being largely a reviewer of already published material to a pre-viewer of material before it becomes widely published. This makes the spoiler issue all the more important. The last ARC I reviewed, Alive, came with a warning to not spoil ANYTHING. Fair enough. So, I played the game and didn’t write any. Concurrently, I dig for as much critical analysis as possible. I want to be spoiled, so that I can watch the clues emerge. I don’t want to re-watch or re-read anything for complete understanding. But that’s MHO.

Where do you sit on the spoiler issue? Do you avoid reading them? Writing them? Do you warn people?

And what is a proper statute of limitations for a spoiler? Can we at least agree that there needs to be one? Because in the end, Juliet dies too–OOPS.