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Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear fantasy author(1971- )
Elizabeth Bear
was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She studied English and Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, but did not graduate. She has worked as a technical writer, a stable hand, a reporter, and in various office jobs. Though she sold a few stories to small-press publications in the ’90s, she only began writing seriously in 2001, and has produced numerous novels and short stories since. She won the John W. Campbell award for best new writer in 2005 and the Locus best first novel award in 2006. Here’s Elizabeth Bear’s website.


Elizabeth Bear is a literary philanderer

Please join me in welcoming to Elizabeth Bear, who’s on a blog tour to promote her newest book, Karen Memory, a unique blend of steampunk and Wild West excitement which I definitely enjoyed. Today, she’s here to talk about the pros and cons of strict adherence to writing in one style or genre, and to ask whether readers enjoy or dislike when an author swerves from an established path. She’s also got a copy of Karen Memory to give away to one random commenter.

Hello there. I’m Elizabeth Bear and I have a confession to make.

I have a hard time sticking to a topic. A subgenre. A set of tropes. I’m a serial literary philanderer. (Maybe it would be kinder to call myself polygenreous?)

In my career (counting collaborations, 27 novels written so far and count... Read More

Blood and Iron: Creativity and Imagination

Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear may have given her novel a rather generic title, but within the covers of the book is a story of intrigue, politics, family relations, romance, mystery and magic, as well as one of the best depictions of Faerie I've read in a long time. If you love fantasy, but are sick of boring Tolkien knock-offs, then Blood and Iron should fix you up nicely. Reminiscent of several other original fantasists, (Patricia McKillip and Jan Siegel spring to mind) this is an interesting take on the world of Faerie and its relationship to our own world.

The realm of Faerie and the world of men have been engaged in a cold war for centuries. Whilst Faerie agents ... Read More

Ink and Steel: Rewards for the patient reader

Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear

A blend of history and fantasy is what typifies Elizabeth Bear's body of work, as does her reliance on folklore and literary references to craft her tales. The more you know about her favoured subject matter, whether it be Shakespeare, Elizabethan England, Faerie, or Arthurian legend, the better you'll be able to enjoy her books, for Bear doesn't suffer fools and seldom slows down to explain precisely what's going on. Ink and Steel requires your utmost attention if you're to follow it, so don't think you can pick this one up for a bit of light holiday reading.

I read Blood and Iron several years ago and though my memories of it are vague, I do remember having enjoyed it. So it was with a certain amount of confidence that I picked up Ink and Steel, expecting good things. The story is set in Elizabethan London, but not as we know it. In this alternative history Que... Read More

Undertow: Mediocre

Undertow by Elizabeth Bear

Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest (1976) is a (novella extended into a) novel that features an alien planet invaded by humanity and exploited for its resources, the natives forced into labor. An open allegory regarding the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, it is a compact novel that remains focused on three main points throughout: corporate/political greed, respect for traditional cultures, and the need to find reconciliation between the two. Elizabeth Bear’s 2007 Undertow is precisely the same story, but with additional focus on science fiction/fantasy concepts, added character viewpoints, and all upgraded for the 2... Read More

New Amsterdam: Forensic sorcery

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear

New Amsterdam is billed as “the hardcover debut” from Elizabeth Bear, who had been winning awards for her short stories and novels before this work was published in 2007. Though not exactly described as such, New Amsterdam is a compilation of six short stories, each connected to and increasingly dependent upon the others as the overarching plot progresses. While each story is ostensibly a mystery which requires investigation and the use of forensic sorcery in order to arrive at each solution, characters and world-building are the primary focus of Bear’s writing. For the most part, this works well, though there are some pieces which could have benefitted from closer authorial scrutiny, and I wish the concept of “forensic sorcery” had been brought to the fore.
... Read More

Seven for a Secret: Skillful blend of alternate history, fantasy, macabre

Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear

In 1938, in an alternate London occupied by the conquering German-Prussian empire, the ancient vampire Sebastien, attended by his 'court' of servants, awaits the death of his lover, the venerable sorceress, Abigail Irene. One night, however, two teenage girls — cadets in one of the empire's schools and each a seventh daughter — pique the vampire's curiosity. Sebastien and Abigail Irene begin to investigate the girls' backgrounds and the school's true activities, even as the girls progress toward an unorthodox graduation that will transform them into the empire's ultimate stormtroopers. But one of the girls has a secret of her own, and the course of history will hinge on the difficult choices of Sebastien and herself.

This short novella, a sequel to New Amsterdam, by the talented Elizabeth Bear is a skillful blend of al... Read More

The White City: It’s all very civilized and decadent

The White City by Elizabeth Bear

The vampire-detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa and his small 'court' visit the White City of Moscow on two occasions, in 1897 and 1903, both before and after his sojourn in an alternative America. On both occasions, someone closely linked to a politically-active young artist, Irina Stephanova, is murdered. As the mysteries in both 1897 and 1903 unfold, Sebastien confronts a much older entity inhabiting Moscow and, ultimately, the mystery of his own forgotten past.

The White City is the third book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien, after New Amsterdam and Seven for a Secret. However, in the world of the story, the events occur both before and after those chronicled in New Amsterdam, so I strongly recommend reading the latter book first. (Seven for a Secret Read More

Ad Eternum: This newest chapter is a treat

Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear

In 1962, vampire-detective Sebastien, having adopted the name 'Jack Prior,' returns from Europe to New Amsterdam, arriving not by airship but airplane. As he attempts to re-establish himself in the new world, he makes the acquaintance of a clique of sorcerers who invite him to join them in an ambitious endeavor. But old — indeed, ancient — habits die hard, and Sebastien must chart the course of his eternal voyage while buffeted by public protests against vampires and the sudden return of someone powerful from his past.

Ad Eternum (2012) is the fourth book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien. One should first read New Amsterdam, The White City, and Seven for a Secret, after which this newest chapter is a treat. At the risk of repeating myself, the tale and Ms. Bear's writing are elegant and sub... Read More

Dust: Traditional fantasy + space opera = great story

Dust by Elizabeth Bear

While Dust is categorized as science fiction, there were actually a lot of familiar fantasy elements in the book, which I found a little bit surprising but quite enjoyable. For example, a number of medieval concepts are employed in the novel, such as a ruling family of nobles; politics regarding bloodlines, successors and inheritances; knights; castles; swords as the preferred choice of weaponry; chivalry; and so on. Then there’s the story, which features a servant girl who discovers she’s someone important, a couple of quests including one to prevent a war between the House of Rule and Engine, and the presence of near-omniscient angels who play the role of “meddling gods.” On top of that you also have the Garden of Eden and other Christian references, prophecy told through a deck of cards, the appearance of a dragon, a basilisk side character and a necromancer…

If Read More

A Companion to Wolves: Monette + Bear = richly crafted fantasy

A Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear

When I first started A Companion to Wolves I thought it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill fantasy. I mean you had humans who bonded telepathically with wolves, trolls and wyverns for enemies, and Norse culture/mythology as a major influence in the naming of characters, places, and things, the northern setting, and the religion (Othinn, Ragnarok, Freya, etc.).

Of course I should have known better. While I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading any Elizabeth Bear, I have read and enjoyed Ms. Monette's The Doctrine of Labyrinth books, which are known for being of a different breed. One of the most intriguing aspects about her series is the way she explores relationships and sexuality, both of which are carried over into A Companion to Wolves. Basically, the bond sh... Read More

An Apprentice to Elves: A primer in in-depth worldbuilding

An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette

An Apprentice to Elves, the third installment of the ISKRYNE series, is a book that depends on its thick world-building. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette have created realistic cultures that take some cues from Norse and Roman history and dramatized a cultural conflict between them, at the same time as developing relationships and characters rooted in these cultures. Most of the narrative is set in the Northlands, an icy forested domain whose natural defenses are harsh enough to help the Northmen stay safe. But a new enemy, the fiercely disciplined Rhean, invades from the south, hoping to colonize the Northlands and bring the Northmen under their rule. The Northmen... Read More

All the Windwracked Stars: Norse mythology + apocalyptic SF

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

All the Windwracked Stars is the first book in the EDDA OF BURDENS trilogy by fantasy and SF author Elizabeth Bear. The novel is a very original blend of fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and mythology, and while it has some weaknesses, its originality sets it apart in a genre that's all too often filled with cookie-cutter material.

Surprisingly, All the Windwracked Stars actually begins with Ragnarok, the final battle between the Children of the Light and the Tarnished. Muire, a waelcyrge (valkyrie) is one of the only survivors, together with Kasimir, another valkyrie's wounded valraven, who (in a sign of things to come) is transformed from his old two-headed, winged horse form into a more steampunk-ish guise.

Fast forward more than two millennia, to a post-apocalyptic world in which h... Read More

By the Mountain Bound: Greg loves it. Stefan doesn’t.

By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear

The Einherjar and the Waelcyrge are the immortal Children of the Light that were born of the sea when the world was created. For five hundred years, they were charged with protecting the human race and preparing for the war that would one day come. As they anticipated the glory of fighting with honor, it never occurred to them that the final battle would be with each other.

This series, the EDDA OF BURDENS, seems to have gotten somewhat mixed reviews. Some readers don't like the order of the books. By the Mountain Bound is the second book, which is the story that leads up to the last battle at the beginning of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. Personally, I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.

I do have to admit that I had a hard time getting through one of the early chapters (I started to wonder i... Read More

The Sea Thy Mistress: Brings Norse mythology to life

The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear

The Sea Thy Mistress is the third book of the The Edda of Burdens, which I believe, is a trilogy. It picks up after the ending of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. (The events in book 2, By the Mountain Bound, are the actual beginning of the story.)

Fifty years after Muire has ascended to become the Bearer of Burdens — a goddess that is one with the Wyrm that dwells in the ocean — she gives birth to a son. The infant is found on the beach by the cyborg Aethelred, a priest of Muire who was once a bartender. At the time the child’s father, Cahey — Muire’s former lover turned Einherjar — is off wandering the previously apocalyptic world, performing his task of protecting and helping the new human settlements. So are the moreau, human-... Read More

Bone and Jewel Creatures: A lovely trifle

Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear appeared on the scene in 2004 as if she were Athena, sprung fully formed from Zeus’s forehead to be a major player in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Her first project was the science fiction thriller Jenny Casey space opera series beginning with Hammered, but in short order books by Bear began appearing at least every six months. In 2005, she won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Author; in 2008 the Hugo for Best Short Story (“Tideline”); and in 2009 the Hugo for Best Novelette (“Shoggoths in Bloom”). I briefly met her at Readercon several years ago, and expressed my astonishment at her sudden, prolific appearance. She assured me that she had been laboring for many years in complete obscurity, and was clearly relishing that she did so no longer.

Now Bear has a new nomination, this time for the World Fantasy Award for Read More

Book of Iron: A charming story full of wonderful creatures

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

The novella Book of Iron is Elizabeth Bear’s prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures about Bijou the artificer. Bijou creates beautiful jeweled creatures by animating bones. I haven’t read Bone and Jewel Creatures but Terry and Stefan loved it, and the publisher promises that Book of Iron can stand alone, so there was no way I was passing on my review copy to Terry without reading it first.

Bijou works for her friend Salih, the second prince of Messaline. Another wizard, a necromancer named Kaulas, rounds out the trio of friends and adventurers and, at least for the moment, is Bijou’s lover. When another group of wizard adventurers comes to Messaline on a quest, Bijou, Prince Salih and Kaulas insist on accompanying them, partly for the excitement and partly to protect th... Read More

Range of Ghosts: Best fantasy novel I’ve read all year

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

This review turned out a bit rambly, but I’m too lazy to self-edit today, so I’m going to cut to the chase and place my overall opinion right up front for anyone who doesn’t feel like reading over a thousand words of enthusiastic rambling:

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear is the best fantasy novel I’ve read all year, and you should read it too.

The setting of Range of Ghosts is a fantasy version of a place that vaguely resembles Central Asia around the time of the dissolution of the Mongol Empire. Now, there’s a lot more going on than that, and you don’t need any familiarity with that era to read this novel. This is not the “quarter turn to the fantastical” retelling of history you’ll find in the (excellent) novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.

Instead, it’s a fully... Read More

THE ETERNAL SKY: I liked it. I admired it. And yet…

THE ETERNAL SKY by Elizabeth Bear

Sometimes the whole feels less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, you just wonder if you should have read a book (or three) at a different time. Sometimes you step back from your thoughts about a book (or three) and think, “Ingrate. What more did you need?” You feel, I don’t know, “churlish.” Like when that other person who is so smart and deep and beautiful and cute (which is different from beautiful) and witty and likes all the same music and read those same books and all in all just so great, really great, and all your friends are like, “You know, she (he’s) really into you” and you’re like, “Yeah, I don’t know.” And they’re like, “What, you think you’re gonna do better?” And you’re like, “No. But still, I just don’t know. I’m just not...” But they don’t even want to hear it. They just go, “Idiot,” and walk off. And all you can do is shrug and nod in probable agreement.... Read More

Shattered Pillars: Still fantastic

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s entire ETERNAL SKY trilogy is now sitting in a neat row on my bookshelf. I adored the first book and consumed the second one so quickly it went by in a blur of semi-divine horses and cool but unpronounceable names. Before I read Steles of the Sky(released on April 10th), it’s worth pausing to reconsider the middle book in what might be one of my favorite fantasy series in recent years.

In Shattered Pillars, Temur and his band of loyal and enigmatic followers continue their quest. But the quest is stranger and less certain than it used to be. Temur wants to save Edene, his horse-riding lady-love, but also reclaim his grandfather’s throne and oust his rival Qori Buqa. In a vast and fractured political landscape dominated by independent city-states, this turns out to be rat... Read More

Steles of the Sky: As it was in the Beginning

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

First, a confession: I’ve mostly given up on epic fantasy as a genre. I keep circling back to it because I remember the sense of soaring escape it gave me in eighth grade, but the story about intrepid heroes banding together to save the world from evil has long since lost its shine for me. The series I’ve slogged through recently — including the Hugo-nominated one, which rhymes with Peel of Lime — would only be useful to me if I needed to prop open a door on a breezy day, or start a fire in some kind of post-apocalyptic situation.

But then sometimes I stumble over an epic fantasy series that reminds me why I keep returning to it: because there’s something buried deep in the marrow of fantasy, well-hidden by pounds of Tolkien knock-offs and Dungeons & Dragons narratives, that resonates with the oldest and grandest of our stories. Because humans are story-telling animals, maker-uppers of... Read More

The Stone in the Skull: Wonderful start to a new series

The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

With The Stone in the Skull (2017), Elizabeth Bear returns to the world of her ETERNAL SKY trilogy with the opening book in another series, this one entitled THE LOTUS KINGDOMS. I only gave the first trilogy a 3.5, but recognized that score as being more than a little “churlish” as I put it, since the series was “So smart. So deep. So beautiful ... [with] Complex, realistic characters ... Big ideas. Strong females. Prose carved to a near-perfect edge. Moving moments ... “See, churlish. (Hmm, I may have to start rereading that series after this review). Well, all of those elements are there as well in The Stone in the Skull, a book which starts off slowly and ends with a bang (literally) and which I thoroughly enjoyed start ... Read More

The Red-Stained Wings: Bear wields a keen eye

The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear

Second books of a trilogy all too often suffer from BBS (Bridge Book Syndrome), and truth be told, Elizabeth Bear’s The Red-Stained Wings (2019) did at times evince several of the symptoms, including a sense of wheel-spinning and the occasional lagging of pace. Luckily, Bear was mostly able to keep the condition in check thanks to the host of remedies she has readily available in her writerly pharmacopeia, including rich characterization, fervent imagination, and vivid, lovely prose. Inevitable spoilers for the first book to follow.

In book one, The Stone in the Skull, the Lotus Kingdom lands that splintered off when the Lotus Empire fell enter a chaotic period of u... Read More

Karen Memory: A purely fun mashup of steampunk and Weird West

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

If — like me — you find steampunk to be a problematic genre, take heart: Elizabeth Bear has created the cure, and it is called Karen Memory. This is a rollicking good story, full of period-appropriate details and flights of fancy, nefarious plots, honest romance, and women who say things like “I gotta get to my sewing machine” and mean it as a call to arms.

Our heroine is Karen Memery, a “seamstress” who works in Madame Damnable’s Hôtel Mon Cherie, located in Rapid City, Washington Territory. Rutherford B. Hayes is president, the Klondike Gold Rush is in full swing, and pilots steer gaudy airships through the sky. “Seamstress” is one of many euphemisms for a woman in Karen’s profession, along with stargazer, sister, frail sister, nymph du prairie, ragged robin, sparrow, an... Read More

Stone Mad: Spirits, steampunk, and science

Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear instantly charmed me with her 2015 novel Karen Memory, in which a young “seamstress” battles against greed and corruption with the aid of her friends, a U.S. Marshal, and a hulking ambulatory sewing machine. The first follow-up tale, Stone Mad (2018), is a slight novella jam-packed with action, adventure, folklore, and romantic strife.

Karen Memery and her brilliant girlfriend, Priya, are treating themselves to a top-notch dinner at the Rain City Riverside Hotel, with plans to go see an illusionist’s widow performing his stage show afterward. Karen’s healed up from her previous effort to save Rapid City, they’ve moved from the Hôtel Ma Cherie to their own little homestead,... Read More

The Origin of Storms: Wraps up a good trilogy in mostly strong fashion

The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms (2022) is Elizabeth Bear’s mostly satisfying conclusion to her generally excellent LOTUS KINGDOM’s trilogy, continuing the prior books’ strengths of strong characterization and sharp social commentary. Spoilers to follow for books one (The Stone in the Skull)  and two (The Red-Stained Wings).

After the events of the first two books, Rajni Mrithuri is now the Dowager Empress, ruler of conjoined kingdoms and the person with the strongest claim to the Alchemical Throne (though she has yet to risk sitting on it). That said, she has no gu... Read More

Ancestral Night: Asks interesting and relevant questions

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Haimey Dz grew up in an all-female community that she thinks of as a cult. After a bad experience involving a girlfriend, Haimey leaves her home, joins the Synarche, finds a business partner, has her body adjusted a bit (has her feet turned into another pair of hands), and starts a rescue and salvaging business.

Now Haimey and her partner, along with Singer, the sentient AI that drives the ship, travel through space, finding distressed or wrecked spaceships and either saving them or, if it’s too late, salvaging stuff. When we join them, they’re heading toward the source of a signal that seems to come from a ship that was lost a long time ago. Upon arrival, Haimey makes some unsettling discoveries and acquires some technology that somebody else wants. Now they’re being chased by pirates, including a really sexy one that Haimey knows she needs to stay away from.

Gradually Haimey... Read More

Machine: Should have been more exciting

Machine by Elizabeth Bear

Dr. Jens and her alien colleagues rescue spaceships that are in trouble. After answering a distress call, they discover an old ship in which all of the human crewmembers are in cryogenic storage. Their only caretaker is an oddly sexy robot who was given instructions to build the cryogenic storage containers for the crew long ago.

When Dr. Jens and her colleagues get back to their own ship and get ready to thaw out some of the frozen humans, they discover that their own trusty shipmind, Sally, is starting to forget things. They begin to suspect a rogue artificial intelligence might be responsible for what’s been happening on both of the ships.

When Dr. Jens is asked to figure out what’s going on, she begins to unravel a strange mystery and discovers that the benevolent organization she works with, and some of her beloved colleagues, may not be quite as wonderful as she thought. As we tag... Read More

SHORTS: Vernon, Sloan, Parker, Poe, Wood, Bear

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

"Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon (2014, free at Apex Magazine, podcast available)

Ursula Vernon's "Jackalope Wives" is the winner of this year's Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for short story and deservedly so. It certainly has my vote. It isn't clear where the story is set. All we know is that on the outskirts of town lies a desert, and in the desert the jackalope wives comes out at night to dance a wild dance. What are jackalope wives? This isn't immediately clear, we are drip fed tantalising details of their long ears and smooth coats which they shed in order to dance. They entrance the young men of the town and one in particular. But what happens when you catch a jackalope wife is ... Read More

SHORTS: Shepard, de Bodard, Bear, Jemisin, Parker, Holland

Our weekly exploration of free short fiction available on the internet. This week's theme, just for fun, is stories dealing with dragons. 

The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard (1984, free online at (sample from the Bestiary anthology), originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, also collected in The Dragon Griaule). 1985 Hugo and 1984 Nebula nominee (novelette), 1985 World Fantasy Award nominee (novella)

In 19th century South America, ... Read More

SHORTS: Yap, Lee, Bear, Jemisin, Okorafor

SHORTS: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few more Locus-nominated stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“How to Swallow the Moon” by Isabel Yap (2018, free at Uncanny magazine, $3.03 Kindle magazine issue). 2019 Locus award nominee (novelette).

“How to Swallow the Moon,” a Locus-nominated novelette by Isabel Yap, follows the cadence and arc of a traditional fairy tale — a village periodically plies a dangerous supernatural being with strictly-cloistered maidens, called binukots, or “jewels,” in order to sate his hunger and prevent him fro... Read More

SHORTS: Roanhorse, Liu, Lee, Goss, Kingfisher, Bear

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week's post reviews several more of the current crop of Locus Award nominees in the short fiction categories.

“A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy” by Rebecca Roanhorse (2019, anthologized in The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe). 2020 Locus award finalist (short story).

In the future, people’s memories can be stored and preserved even after they’ve died, and other people can inject them like drugs. Dez Hunter is an actor who has spiraled into depression after the death of his beloved girlfriend, ... Read More

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.

The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced. Having said that, here are my top three stories:

"Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert is one of the more horrifying stories in this anthology, and this is achieved through her characterization and commentary on society. It's easy to jump into Rickert's text and there is a foreboding established early on w... Read More

Fast Ships, Black Sails: Pirates and adventure!

Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer

I was never a big fan of pirates (ninjas, on the other hand...) but nonetheless, the very word evokes adventure and the high seas. Fast Ships, Black Sails doesn't really stray far from that expectation and delivers eighteen stories marked with action, treachery, and a sense of wonder.

A good chunk of the stories revolve around traditional concepts of a pirate, with only a few exceptions, such as "Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, which takes place in space. The rest take place on stormy waters with sea-worthy vessels manned by rascally crews. Surprisingly, many of the stories are ... Read More

METAtropolis: It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less

METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi

It’s not a utopia. It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it turns out that all those eco-freaks were right all along. We humans destroyed the planet and now we’ve got to live with the mess we’ve made. Many world governments, including the U.S., have been essentially dismantled and large, mostly independent and self-governing city-states have taken their place.

Under the direction of John Scalzi, the story authors — Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, E... Read More

Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don't like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you'd expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There's nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They're just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don't read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time. To this day, I confess to having to suppress a mental groan whenever I encounter them.

For a long time, I actively avoided reading any fantasy novel with the word dragon in the title. Granted, I made several exceptions to this rule in the past, most notably The King's Dragon by Read More

Sympathy for the Devil: A collection of bedtime stories

Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt

Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil... who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men. Devils with a surprising amount of business acumen, and devils who try to get what they want, no matter the cost. There’s even one who engages in a competitive eating contest — the prize is, of course, someone’s soul.

Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt, offers up 35 very diverse short stories (and o... Read More

Supernatural Noir: A Datlow anthology

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow suggests in her introduction to Supernatural Noir that noir fiction and supernatural fiction, with its roots in the gothic, have a lot in common. The main character in each tends to be a hard-living guy, usually down to his last flask of scotch, haunted by a sexy dame whose middle name is trouble. So it seemed natural to her to combine the two genres for an original anthology.

Despite my general rule that any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow is one I want to read, I resisted this one for a long time. Detectives looking for ghosts? Eh. Not my thing. But when Supernatural Noir was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, and... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear... Read More

Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you're a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven't read these stories before.
3. It isn't just "urban fantasy" by the usual definition (our contemporary world plus the supernatural). There's a sword-and-sorcery story from Scott Lynch, an... Read More

Old Venus: An over-long, narrowly-themed anthology

Old Venus by Gardner Dozois & George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s themed anthologies are some of the most popular on the market these days. Soliciting the genre’s best-known mainstream writers, selecting highly familiar themes, and letting the length run to 500+ pages, RoguesWarriorsDangerous WomenSongs of the Dying EarthOld Mars, and others are among the bestselling a... Read More

World Fantasy Convention 2011: Day Two

I'm reporting about Day 2 today. Read about Day One here.

There were lots of interesting panels today, and it was frustrating to try to boil them down into the ones I wanted to see.

My first choice was “Retelling Old Stories: The New Fairy Tales.” I’ve got all the modern fairy tale collections edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and many other rewritings, so I was eager to hear this discussion, and it didn’t disappoint. The first question addressed by the panel was the obvious one: why rewrite fairy tales? Read More

More speculative fiction from Elizabeth Bear

Jenny Casey — (2002-2005 ) Publisher: Once Jenny Casey was somebody’s daughter. Once she was somebody’s enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Racked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel. But she is far from forgotten. A government scientist needs the perfect subject for a high-stakes project and has Jenny in his sights. Suddenly Jenny Casey is a pawn in a furious battle, waged in the corridors of the Internet, on the streets of battered cities, and in the complex wirings of her half-man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCarnival — (2006) Publisher: In Old Earth’s clandestine world of ambassador-spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen were once a starring team. But ever since a disastrous mission, they have been living separate lives in a universe dominated by a ruthless Coalition — one that is about to reunite them. The pair are dispatched to New Amazonia as diplomatic agents Allegedly, they are to return priceless art. Covertly, they seek to tap its energy supply. But in reality, one has his mind set on treason. And among the extraordinary women of New Amazonia, in a season of festival, betrayal, and disguise, he will find a new ally — and a force beyond any that humans have known….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Chains That You Refuse — (2006)  Publisher: A new collection by one of the most popular and prolific authors of the last few years covers a wide range of material, from time travel to cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy. Twenty stories and two poems, originally published in high profile places like and Asimov’s.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Girl Who Sang Rose Madder — (2010) Publisher: In art as in life, you’ve got to change in order to live. Even when your audience—and maybe your friends — thinks it would be great if you stayed the same forever. In some cases, literally forever. The author of over seventeen SF and fantasy novels published over the last half-decade, Elizabeth Bear won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005, and the Hugo Award and the Sturgeon Award in 2008 for her short story “Tideline.”

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Horrid Glory of Its Wings — (2011) Publisher: There’s a harpy with bronze wings living in the dumpster behind Desiree’s building. She’s ugly and she eats garbage, but she has a little kingdom back there. Desiree wants something of her own, too — something all hers. Can that foul old thing possibly help her?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsShoggoths in Bloom — (2012) Publisher: Short fiction from Elizabeth Bear, recipient of the “John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.” Includes her Hugo- and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “Tideline” and Hugo-winning novelette, “Shoggoths in Bloom,” as well as an original, never-published story. A World Fantasy, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick nominee, Bear is one of speculative fiction’s most acclaimed, respected, and prolific authors.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFaster Gun — (2012) Publisher: It’s hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, and a hundred times too big to be a ship. It looks like nothing anyone ever saw. And it’s crashed just outside Tombstone with something alive inside.

Mammoth Books presents And the Deep Blue Sea Kindle Edition by Elizabeth Bear (Author)And the Deep Blue Sea — (2012) Publisher: Reminiscent of both “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny and “The Postman” by David Brin, “And the Deep Blue Sea” offers almost three stories for the price of one.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOne-Eyed Jack — (2013) Publisher: The One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King: personifications of the city of Las Vegas – its history, mystery, mystical power, and heart! When the Suicide King vanishes — possibly killed — in the middle of a magic-rights turf war started by the avatars of Los Angeles, a notorious fictional assassin, and the mutilated ghost of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — his partner, the One-Eyed Jack, must seek the aid of a bizarre band of legendary and undead allies: the ghosts of Doc Holliday and John Henry the steel-driving man; the echoes of several imaginary super spies, decades displaced in time; and a vampire named Tribute, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain long-lost icon of popular music.