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Emma Bull

Emma Bull(1954- )
Emma Bull
is a science fiction and fantasy author whose best-known novel is War for the Oaks, one of the pioneering works of urban fantasy. She has participated in Terri Windling’s Borderland shared universe, which is the setting of her 1994 novel Finder. She sang in the rock-funk band Cats Laughing, and both sang and played guitar in the folk duo The Flash Girls while living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was a member of the writing group The Scribblies, which included her husband Will Shetterly as well as Pamela Dean, Kara Dalkey, Nate Bucklin, Patricia Wrede and Steven Brust. Emma Bull graduated from Beloit College in 1976. Bull and Shetterly live in Arizona. Emma Bull has been nominated for several prestigious awards including a Hugo, two Nebulas, and a World Fantasy Award. Learn more Emma Bull’s website.

Liavek: A light read that will transport you to another world

Liavek by Will Shetterly & Emma Bull

One of the things I love about used bookstores is stumbling across out of print books from favorite authors. I picked up Liavek because I’ve enjoyed Emma Bull since The War for the Oaks, and discovered a fun collection of short stories. Unlike most anthologies, Liavek is a shared world universe, where all the authors write short stories that are set in the same location, with the same characters. Not only do characters reoccur, but events from early stories are referenced in later tales in the volume. This makes the anthology read more like a novel than a collection of loosely linked stories.

Liavek is a city of magic. Most people can do a little magic, though it takes training to become a great wizard. A person only has access to their magic for their birth period, the hours that their mother was in labor with ... Read More

War for the Oaks: Rockin’ in the Sidhe World

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Anyone who likes urban fantasy should go "back to basics" and pick up this defining classic of the subgenre. I've read several books that borrow zillions of plot elements from War for the Oaks, but never reach the same sort of exhilarating heights. Yeah, yeah, we all know the story: young woman wanders the city at night and meets a mysterious stranger, so on, so forth. Now sit back and see it done right!

Eddi McCandry has just quit her boyfriend's abysmal band, and now plans to break up with the boyfriend as well. But before she gets the chance to talk to him, she gets recruited into a war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, for the heart and soul and magic of Minneapolis. You see, the Fair Folk can't wound each other in battle unless there is a human there to lend mortality. The Seelie Court needs Eddi in order to make their sparring a war rather than a mere sport.
... Read More

The FIREBIRDS Anthologies: Excellent short fiction for young adults

The FIREBIRDS anthologies edited by Sharyn November

Firebirds is the first of the three FIREBIRD anthologies edited by Sharyn November. Some people don’t like short stories, especially in anthologies where you are reading several different authors. I, however, almost always have a volume of short stories on my bedside table. Even if I manage to get no other reading done during a hectic day, it is a way for me to finish a whole story in 15-20 minutes. In an age where many authors seem incapable of writing anything other than multi-novel epics, it is a treasure to be able to enjoy a whole tale in one sitting.

Many collections of fantasy short stories are a compilation of hit or miss attempts to match a loosely defined theme for the volume. The Firebird Anthologies far exceed the industry standard. They are edited by Shar... Read More

Territory: The gunfight at the OK Corral becomes a romping fantasy adventure

Territory by Emma Bull

Emma Bull turns the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral into a romping fantasy adventure in Territory.

Since I don't know much about this period, most of the historical specifics were lost on me. For example, I can't critique her characterization of Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday or say if she was accurate with the nitty-gritty details of events. Thus, historical accuracy wasn’t a huge deal to me, which allowed me to sit back and really enjoy the book for its story.

Territory opens on a rather grim note at the scene of a robbery where two people are killed. While this scene is important for the plot, it doesn’t set the tone for the whole book. There are incredibly dark and suspenseful moments, but they are nicely juxtaposed with an overall feel of innocence as the widow Mildred Benjamin and the traveler Jesse Fox are introduced. In fact, it se... Read More

The Urban Fantasy Anthology: Not what I expected it to be

The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of most urban fantasy. I tend to find problems with almost every urban fantasy book I’ve tried to read. When I got this book in the mail, I kind of rolled my eyes and shot it to the top of my “to be read” pile so I could get it over with fast. I didn’t expect to actually enjoy this book. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d open this anthology and think, “hot damn, this is good stuff…” but I did. I cracked open this book, started reading, and shocked myself by enjoying it.

As with every anthology, not every story will be a hit. Where The Urban Fantasy Anthology seems to differ from many other anthologies was the fact that the stories all appealed to me differently due to their plots, not due to their quality, which is the case with many other anthologies. This book is fil... Read More

Magazine Monday: Fantasy Magazine, Women Destroy Fantasy

Fantasy Magazine was folded into Lightspeed Magazine in 2012, but it came out of retirement in October 2014 for the Women Destroy Fantasy issue, one of the stretch goals of a Kickstarter for an all-women edition of Lightspeed. I was one of the contributors to the Kickstarter, and, as my review last week revealed, I greatly enjoyed the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine that was another stretch goal of the same Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report that the fantasy issue is just as “destructive” and enjoyable.

Cat Rambo guest-edited the new fiction for this issue of Fantasy. Her editorial remarks on the difficulty of seeing the shape of a field when you’re smack in the middle of it. You can see fine details, but the overall structure, size a... Read More

The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors

The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors by Terri Windling

I love adult fairy tales, but it seems that all too often, writers pump up the sex and violence to render the tales "adult," rather than more deeply exploring the human emotional dramas in the stories. Maybe that's why I love the anthology The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors which was edited by Terri Windling. The tales and poems here do include sex and violence, yes, but at their heart is the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

So many of the classic fairy tales include situations that we would now call abuse. Hansel and Gretel were abandoned, Donkeyskin suffered incest, and the original Sleeping Beauty was raped rather than kissed. In most of these stories, the protagonist endures great pain, then rises above the suffering and triumphs over his or her tormentors. In the old versions, the pr... Read More

The Green Man: Read it slowly

The Green Man edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

In fairy tales, whenever someone journeys into the forest, you just know something strange is about to occur and that the protagonist’s life is going to be changed forever. The same is true of the stories and poems featured in The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. With this collection, editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling kicked off a series of young adult anthologies, each devoted to a particular theme. Here, the theme is wild nature, and most of the stories feature teenage characters who encounter the wilderness and undergo a coming-of-age experience there.

Of course, I have my favorites. Delia Sherman contributes a tale of the Faery Queen of Central Park, and the insecure girl who faces her in a battle of wits. 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

More speculative fiction from Emma Bull

Emma Bull FalconFalcon — (1985) Publisher: Ace star pilot Dominic Falcon fights to defend a planet while a deadly drug courses through his blood stream, destroying his boy’s defenses and rendering him helpless.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsBone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles — (1991) Publisher: Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling pre-nuke videos from the world before. I know how to get a high price, especially on Big Bang collectibles. But the hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen — the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after. But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind. The Horsemen are coming.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Princess and the Lord of Night — (1994) Ages 5 and up. Publisher: An unconventional fairy tale presents a princess who must get everything she wants, or her parents will die and their kingdom be destroyed, but the princess reaches the point where she must work to get what she really wants.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsFinder: A Novel of the Borderlands — (1994) Young adult. Publisher: American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. Welcome to Bordertown. A hybrid community of misfits, oddballs and runaways. Where humans, elves and halflings co-exist. Where magic and the brutal realities of survival clash and mix. For Orient and Tick-Tick, it’s just home. Death and dark magic hang ov er the city. A seductive new drug lures young runaways to their destruction. A mysterious plague spreads through the streets. And beneath the clock tower on High Street, Bonnie Prince Charlie lies slain by an unseen hand. A cop named Sunny Rico exploits Orient’s talent for finding objects to track the killer and leads both herself and him into the darker secrets of Elflands’ immigrant citizens.


By Steven Brust & Emma Bull

Steven Brust Emma Bull Freedom and NecessityFreedom and Necessity — (1997) Steven Brust and Emma Bull. Publisher: It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it… On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his cousin, he discovers himself to have been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man — wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also the target of a magical conspiracy inside his own family.And so the adventure begins… leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.Nor could any writing team but Steven Brust and Emma Bull make it quite so much fun…

More speculative fiction from Emma Bull & Will Shetterly

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDouble Feature — (1994) Publisher: This trade paperback reprint of the Boskone 31 Book contains 13 pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry plus brief biographies and bibligoraphies of each author and an introduction by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Cover Art by Nick Jainschigg.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAnd Other Stories — (2012) Publisher: Stories by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. By Emma Bull: “The Princess and the Lord of Night” “Man of Action” “The Last of John Ringo” “De la Tierra” “What Used to Be Good Still Is” “Joshua Tree” “Silver or Gold” By Will Shetterly “The Princess Who Kicked Butt” “Oldthings” “Brian and the Aliens” “Taken He Cannot Be” “Little Red and the Big Bad” “Secret Identity” “The People Who Owned the Bible” “Kasim’s Haj” “The Thief of Dreams” “Black Rock Blues” “Dream Catcher”