Sunday Status Update: October 23, 2016

This week, Red Sonja confronts Lovecraftian horror.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Red Sonja: This week, I ran into one of those eldritch horror death cults that Conan’s always going on about. I was just supposed to be finding a prize cow. Not my most dignified moment, but hang dignity, it’s a cold autumn in the Northern realms and I need money for inns. So off I went to track this cow and I found out the thief had sold it to this old man. Figured I’d have a talk with him, so I headed out to his house. Should’ve smelled a rat when I heard it was on the tall, creepy hill above town (shadowed by lots of spooky pale birches, of course). Anyway, the usual nonsense ensued. Creepily empty house, tracks leading out to a cave out back, hollow hill, bonfire, prayers to unholy alter-dimensional monsters, hideous shadowy form like tendrils of putrescence floating in the air, etc. Anyway, this is the bit where Conan would’ve pounced on the altar and crushed the sacred relic with his pecs or something, but that’s why Conan’s a bloody idiot. There were about sixty people there, and plenty of them looked scrappy. I just mumbled about Hail Sloggoth the All-Consuming, joined a dancing line for a bit, then scarpered first chance I got. Then I went back to the creepily empty house and stuffed a bunch of silver candlesticks in a pillowcase. Didn’t figure I’d be finding the cow at that point.

Brad: This week I’ve enjoyed rereading Batman: Year One, Shadow Hero, and Ms. Marvel, all of which I am teaching in my college courses (in both Freshman Writing and Crime Fiction). However, the comic book series that really grabbed my attention was Stray Bullets. It’s one of the best crime fiction comics I’ve ever read, perhaps even better than 100 Bullets and certainly equal to the best of Ed Brubaker, who, in my opinion, is the best writer in crime comics ever. But be warned, it’s as harsh as it is ultimately emotionally moving. I’ve also been reading some good philosophy books by Julian Baggini. Finally, I’ve been reading a collection of interviews of people talking about their jobs. It’s called Gig, and it’s an updated version of Studs Terkel’s well-known Working.

Marion: I’ve been trying to concentrate on my own work and get ready for a friend’s visit; and I’ve been beta-reading, so there are only two books to talk about this week. I am slowly making my way through Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I used to try to read it every year in October, but I fell out of the habit a while ago. This go-round I am not impressed with the story, but of course I’m completely immersed in the vivid prose. I’m also enjoying Laura Claridge’s biography of Blanche Wolff Knopf, The Lady With the Borzoi. In addition to providing a view into the life of a powerful and influential woman, it depicts the “golden age” of publishing. It’s also very clear that far beyond just being a sexist, Alfred Knopf actively resented his wife’s influence and tried to diminish it at every turn. It seems safe to say they did not have a happy marriage but the thing that united the was a love of books.

Skye: This past week was dominated by NerdCon: Stories. Like last year it was an incredibly good time – well run and full of heart. I got the chance to chat with a few of the featured guests briefly (John Scalzi at his signing, and Alyssa Wong after she had moderated a brilliant panel) and generally had a fantastic time. I also got to attend a kaffeeklatsche with Nalo Hopkinson, which was an hour of conversation with her and a few other attendees in a small quiet space. It was amazing. She talked frankly about craft and writing diversity, as well as encouraging us to all find our best practices. Something I loved about this year was the strong presence of attendee input. The topic of a panel was invented and voted on by guests, there was a “Community Wall” made of foam core panels and writing/drawing prompts all over it, and a Zine Station where participants were provided with a heaping pile of raw materials with which to make their own zine (something I knew nothing about before). It truly was a beautifully collaborative time. It is uncertain whether NerdCon: Stories will happen again, as outlined in this Vlogbrothers video about embracing failure, but the buzz around the con was enough to make me hopeful for another rendition. If you’re interested in hearing more about NerdCom: Stories the past says that some of featured guests will have some thoughts soon. (Here is a rundown by Scalzi from last year, and another from Patrick Rothfuss about how the whole thing came to be.) As far as reading and reviewing goes I’m in much the same place as I was last week: reading a few, reviewing many, and keeping an eye on book sales and short fiction online.

StuartThis week I got through Alastair Reynolds‘ Redemption Ark, the second book in his REVELATION SPACE series. It was slow-going, but at least it revealed some details about the Inhibitor’s motivations and the source of the cache weapons, but I still considered the page-count excessive. I’m halfway through the final book Absolution Gap, and find this also desperately in need of a stronger editor. For a change of pace, I continue to chip away at Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions,  a biography of  Philip K Dick, along with Lucius Shepard‘s excellent 1987 short-story collection The Jaguar Hunter.

Tadiana: In the last two weeks I’ve read Rick Riordan‘s The Hammer of Thor, his latest, just-published young adult fantasy and the second book in his MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series, and Illuminae, an absorbing young adult science fiction novel by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which has some interesting graphical elements. The sequel to Illuminae has just been published and I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon. I’m currently reading (and almost finished with) Invisible Planets, an anthology of translated Chinese science fiction short stories collected by Ken Liu, and am just starting Treachery’s Tools, L.E. Modesitt‘s latest fantasy novel in his IMAGER PORTFOLIO series. My most recent classic read is Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock, a mock-epic poem that I last read years ago in college. It was a delight to revisit it.

Terry: Lately I’ve found that I enjoy reading anthologies more when I read only one story at a time. But when it comes to Stephen King, all bets are off. I blasted through The Bazaar of Bad Dreams this week, and hope to have a review up soon. I’ve moved from that anthology to Ellen Datlow‘s Nightmares, where I’m back to one story at a sitting, mostly because these stories are absolutely terrifying and my heart can take only so much. I’m also reading The Alchemist of Souls by Ann Lyle, and enjoying it more for the period detail than for the science fictional aspect, which, more than 100 pages in, has only barely begun to show itself. And, of course, I’m still reading tons of stuff about the election, including Trump Revealed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, and yes, like everyone else in the  United States (and maybe even the whole world), I can’t wait for this election to be over.

Tim: This week, I kept reading Thomas Berger’s Arthur Rex, which I’m finding a very enjoyable retelling of the Arthurian legend. Not that it’s groundbreaking — it basically takes its cues from the usual sources (i.e. Malory) — but Berger walks a tightrope between crafting a thematically cohesive narrative out of a lot of disconnected stories and also ribbing some of the Arthuriad’s sillier points. It’s effective material.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Skye, NerdCon: Stories sounds astounding. I hope it continues.

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