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Previous SFF Author: R.A. Lafferty

SFF Author: Jay Lake

Jay Lake fantasy author(1964-2014)
Jay Lake won the 2004 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and has been nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. You can read some of his short fiction at Jay Lake’s website.



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Greetings from Lake Wu: A story collection

Greetings from Lake Wu by Jay Lake

Greetings from Lake Wu is a collaboration between Jay Lake and Frank Wu, with the former writing the short stories and the latter illustrating them. Wu’s art can be found preceding each story (there are 13 in this collection) and his style has an old-school feel to it. Lake, on the other hand, struts his early work here and I find it amusing that the book begins and ends with stories that have a similar title (“The Courtesy of Guests”


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Rocket Science: Conspiracies and adventure in Kansas

Rocket Science by Jay Lake

At first glance, Rocket Science might seem like a very short read at under 200 pages, but Jay Lake makes every word count. Set in a post-World War II Kansas, the novel starts off with a mundane premise but as one progresses through the book, Lake slowly adds an additional element of conflict so that by the time you reach the end, Rocket Science is a great novel about conspiracies, betrayal, family, friendship, and adventure.

Lake’s language is simple enough,


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Trial of Flowers: Leaves sophisticated readers wanting more

Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake

Despite having read two Jay Lake novels (Rocket Science and Mainspring), they didn’t prepare me for Trial of Flowers. This is an entirely different animal; Right from the outset you’re hit with stylistic language, a complex tapestry of characters and plot, and most importantly, a flat-out weirdness and originality that tends to be missing from most mainstream fantasy novels.

Lake juggles several characters, each with their own level of depravity, yet these are the characters you’re rooting for and sympathizing with. The setting — the City Imperishable — is quite distinct with its unconventionality: factions of boxed dwarfs,


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Mainspring: So much potential

Mainspring by Jay Lake

Up till now, my exposure to Jay Lake has been limited to the author’s short fiction which either really worked for me or was underwhelming. Mainspring falls somewhere in the middle with the parts that I liked and disliked usually related to one another.

For instance, I loved the concept of Earth being part of a giant clockwork mechanism constructed by God, complete with colossal gears and springs. What I didn’t like so much was the haphazard manner in which this backdrop was described with certain aspects depicted in great detail while others were left frustratingly vague — like the Mainspring itself.


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Escapement: The main course

Escapement by Jay Lake

In my opinion, Jay Lake’s Mainspring was a novel full of great potential that was hindered by inconsistent writing and execution. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and was looking forward to reading the sequel. Happily, everything that worked so well in the first book has been retained in Escapement, while most of the problems were corrected, resulting in a greatly improved sequel that is everything Mainspring could have been and much more.

I had several issues with Mainspring — notably the description of Jay’s clockwork universe,


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Green: Mixed reviews

Green by Jay Lake

Green is barely a toddler when her father sells her to Federo, a man who travels around looking for young female children on behalf of a faraway Duke. Taken halfway across the world, not even able to speak the local language, Green is imprisoned in the Pomegranate Court, where she endures a ruthless training program designed to mold her from an innocent, illiterate child into a sophisticated courtesan or concubine for the Duke’s court. Various Mistresses teach her the skills a lady needs and punish her cruelly at the slightest misstep or shortcoming.


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Endurance: Weak plot and narrative voice undercut interesting character

Endurance by Jay Lake

In Endurance, Jay Lake continues the exploration of a strange and beautiful world. We feel the smoothness of a length of silk, hear the sounds from the docks, smell the curries and the spices in the food cooked in the taverns. As Green, his main character, travels through Copper Downs, the reader sees the city from the roofs she travels, and wanders deep into the tunnels and caves beneath the city’s foundation. We see the rust-frozen machines used eons ago, built by the sorcerer-engineers to work the mines,


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Kalimpura: Frustrating close to frustrating series

Kalimpura by Jay Lake

Kalimpura is the third and supposedly concluding book in Jay Lake’s series about Green, the young girl who becomes enmeshed in both worldly and godly politics, much to her dismay. I had lots of issues with the first book, Green, fewer but still some issues with the follow-up, Endurance, and I have to say that Kalimpura, while better than Green, didn’t wrap up the series in any way that would have me recommend readers pick up the trilogy.


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Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection: Indispensable

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

Jay Lake died in June of 2014. It was a tragic loss but not a surprise, since Lake had made his experiences with cancer public. Last Plane to Heaven, edited by Lake himself, is a reminder of just how much the speculative fiction world lost.

I have always loved Lake’s prose, but I had trouble with his novels. This collection of thirty-two stories shows him, mostly, at his best and strongest. As with his novels,


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Magazine Monday: The Magazine That Would Not Die

In 2009, fans of Realms of Fantasy, a full-size slick magazine, were dismayed to learn that its publisher, Sovereign Media, was shutting it down. Just not enough subscribers, Sovereign said; we can’t afford to keep going. But a savior came along in the form of Publisher Warren Lapine of Tir Na Nog Press, who purchased the magazine and kept it going with the same wonderful staff (including long-time editor Shawna McCarthy). Readers were delighted. Magazines are hardly ever saved, and even if they’re revived years later, they’re normally only shadows of their former selves.


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Magazine Monday: Black Gate

Black Gate has been published irregularly (sometimes only once a year) since 2000, but I’ve only just discovered it. And what a time to do so! The Winter 2010 edition, Number 14, is 385 pages long, the size of a hefty book. The price reflects that; few magazines will run you $15.95 in the print edition ($8.95 for a PDF version that doesn’t translate well to Kindle). But then, few magazines will give you as much great fantasy as this one, including first stories by four promising new authors.

There are a very great many stories in this issue – 16 short stories and three novellas.


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Magazine Monday: Asimov’s, October/November 2012

Sheila Williams, the editor of Asimov’s, says that the annual October/November issue is “slightly spooky.” There are a few frights in the magazine, as well as some solid science fiction, but overall, I was generally disappointed in this double issue.

Alan Smale’s novella, “The Mongolian Book of the Dead,” was not one of the disappointments; to the contrary, it is a nicely imagined tale of what might happen if the Chinese decide to mount a military invasion of Mongolia — an independent landlocked country sandwiched between Russia and China.


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Magazine Monday: Subterranean, Spring 2013

The spring issue of Subterranean is exceptionally strong, even for a publication known for its excellent fiction. The six long pieces in this issue seem to be somewhat thematically linked, most of them having taken some form of art as their theme.

In “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard, an artist named Maeve has gone for a walk, seeking both fresh air and perspective, when she sees a naked man crouched beside a cathedral. She reaches into her purse for her phone, but when she looks up again,


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Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Fall 2013

The Fall 2013 issue of Subterranean Magazine is a delight to read. The stories are challenging and imaginative, full of discovery, provocation and excellent writing.

The issue opens with “Doctor Helios,” a long novella by Lewis Shiner. It’s a Cold War espionage novel, reminiscent more of Ian Fleming than of John le Carré, set in Egypt in 1963 as the Aswan Dam is being built. Our hero is John York, apparently a member of the CIA, who has been tasked with ensuring that the dam does not succeed. President Kennedy may want to develop a new relationship with President Nasser of Egypt after years of tension following Nasser’s overthrow of the monarchy and nationalization of the Suez Canal Company,


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Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2014

To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.

The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways,


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Magazine Monday: Uncanny Magazine, Issues One and Two

Uncanny Magazine is a new bimonthly internet publication edited by Lynn M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The editors have explained their mission this way:

We chose the name Uncanny because we wanted a publication that has the feel of a contemporary magazine with a history — one that evolved from a fantastic pulp. Uncanny will bring the excitement and possibilities of the past, and the sensibilities and experimentation that the best of the present offers. . . . It’s our goal that Uncanny’s pages will be filled with gorgeous prose,


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Paper Cities: Diverse anthology

Paper Cities by Ekaterina Sedia

Bring up urban fantasy nowadays and most readers will probably assume that you’re talking about such authors as Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon and so on, but in this new anthology from Senses Five Press, which is edited by Ekaterina Sedia, Paper Cities reveals that Urban Fantasy has actually been around for almost two hundred years and can be traced as far back as the Arabian Nights.


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The Solaris Book of New Fantasy: Celebrates the rich diversity of the genre

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy by George Mann (ed.)

I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to short fiction. Because of my lack of experience in this area, I hope that you will bear with me as I try to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, even if I don’t always succeed. The plan is to first look at each short story individually providing synopses and commentary, followed by my evaluation of the compilation as a whole. So, let’s look at the stories:

1) “Who Slays the Gyant,


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Spicy Slipstream Stories: If you love pulps…

Spicy Slipstream Stories edited by Nick Namatas & Jay Lake

Slipstream, for me, is a type of fiction that is bizarre and confusing and defies expectations. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but to quote a passage from the introduction of the book, “You don’t write slipstream, you read it.” And so it was a big surprise when I started reading the stories in this anthology. They’re actually — gasp — readable, or at least accessible to lay people without needing literary degrees or geeky credentials. In fact, the selections impressed me because they all stood out,


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Steampunk: Quick entertaining education on the subgenre du jour

Steampunk edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

Steampunk is an anthology of, well, steampunk stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. If you hurry, you can still get to this first anthology before the second one, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, appears in mid November. Based on the quality of the stories in this collection, I heartily recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve been a bit bemused (or possibly amused) by all the people wearing odd Victorian costumes at SFF conventions nowadays,


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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,


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The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure is, as its name implies, the second of Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan’s themed anthologies attempting to put a modern spin on space opera, a subgenre of science fiction which causes many of us to think of big metal spaceships crewed by handsome blaster-wielding men who protect us from evil aliens that want to destroy the Earth,


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The Book of Dreams: A small but satisfying collection

The Book of Dreams edited by Nick Gevers

The Book of Dreams is a small but satisfying collection of short stories that are thematically, albeit loosely, connected by the theme of “dreams.” The book features original stories by Robert Silverberg, Lucius Shepard, Jay Lake, Kage Baker and Jeffrey Ford, and was edited by Nick Gevers for Subterranean Press.

Somewhat surprisingly,


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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.


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Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 edited by William Schafer

EDITOR INFORMATION: William K. Schafer is the head editor at Subterranean Press, which was founded in 1995. Schafer’s bibliography includes Embrace the Mutation: Fiction Inspired by the Art of J.K. Potter and the first Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology.

ABOUT SUBTERRANEAN: TALES OF DARK FANTASY 2: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy — published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim — provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark,


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The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk: Truly mammoth, with some great stories

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace

The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk lives up to its name, with 21 works of fiction ranging from short stories to novellas. “Dieselpunk” is the term the coined for concepts that grew out of steampunk but have left the Victorian era behind and are now, for the most part, set in the time period between the two world wars. There are exceptions in this anthology; one story takes places during WWII and one during the American Occupation of Japan.

What you get here,


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Next SFF Author: John Lambshead
Previous SFF Author: R.A. Lafferty

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