All posts by SFF Book Bonanza

Ghosts in Fiction

by C.A. Verstraete

Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween.

In fact in fiction, they continue to be popular characters for both their real and un-real actions. While some books with ghostly or paranormal elements are often called “woo-woo” books, that doesn’t mean the story or characters are any less intriguing than their more “solid” counterparts.

For fun, here are some ghostly books and authors for your reading pleasure:

1. Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series is a great read for its ghosts and paranormal elements. In this addicting series, the FBI team has “special” abilities to see, hear and interact with the dead. Okay, maybe these ghosts sometimes are “talkier” or can do things you wouldn’t expect, but the stories are enjoyable enough that I, at least, am willing to go with it.

2. For ghostly elements, you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes, of course. Who can forget the gripping terror of that phantom dog howling in The Hound of the Baskervilles?

3. You can’t beat stories from classic authors like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and others for the best ghostly thrills. This collection of Classic Ghost Stories has enough chills to keep you shivering all night.

4. I remember being hooked on the Nancy Drew books. Add in a few ghosts as in The Ghost of Blackwood Hall (#25, 1948) and you had a mystery that kept you reading to the end. There also are newer versions now with Nancy and friends investigating in The Nancy Drew Diaries and collections of short stories for ghost-loving young readers.

5. Once again, I’m going back to one of the classics. The Haunting of Hill House remains one of the classics for its spookiness. After all, what’s a ghost story without that creepy house watching you?


C.A. (Christine) Verstraete is the author of The Haunting of Dr. Bowen and Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. Learn more at http://www.cverstraete.com or visit her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com.

The World of New Hampton

by L.A. Frederick

Hello all, and welcome to my explanation or at least attempted report into the city of New Hampton. It has a mind of its own so trying to explain it is harder than you might think!

It doesn’t quite have a mind of its own. But it is the one dominating force in a country that pretty much all packed up and headed for New Hampton. The nation is nameless throughout, but if you held a gun to my head… I’d say it’s an ambiguous cross between the United States of America and England.

I am an Englishman who’s obsessed with American literature and TV shows. Thus it was only natural that I’d fall upon something between the two for my debut sci-fi series.

The world of New Hampton is a dark, urban mystery setting. The enormous city makes up 99% of the country’s population. A few small fishing towns are still in existence in the very northern part of the nation.

On a timeline, the city is set in current times, so say 2017. The focus is on the urban, city environment of the cutthroat New Hampton. A few hundred years ago there were decent sized towns scattered up and down the country. That was until the Great Depression hit. Hundreds of thousands of people forced to move. The only remaining prosperous area in the country, you got it, New Hampton.

As a result, in the modern day, the city has an overcrowded population and has become a corporations dream. Millions upon millions of consumers lap up whatever the corporate fat cats throw at them. All in a vain attempt to elevate their meaningless existence in a city of greed and corruption.

The vast forest that spans the entirety of the northern part of the city masks the city from the wastelands. Hiding the city from the reality that makes up the majority of the country. All that remains near New Hampton to show that life ever existed are thousands of wooden shacks. That used to house a vibrant community. That community is often referred to as the lost society. They upped and left one day, never seen again; did they make it into New Hampton? No one seems to know.

The most prominent feature of New Hampton, especially in the past six months or so, is…The Rain.

A Few Key Locations:

The Emerald Mile

The Emerald Mile is the height of wealth and opulence. Huge townhouses, high-rise buildings and the Royal Palace the standoYetures. There hasn’t been a Royal family for hundreds of years. The Royal Museum is a treasure trove of information on the city. The well to do live within the bubble of the Emerald Mile, a few miles away from the mire and filth of the…

The Docks

Dangerous men live there. Dangerous men work there. It’s not a place for the faint-hearted. The seedy pubs that stain the boardwalk are full of biker gangs. Organised criminals frequent the bars and the entire area. All in the knowledge that the law won’t dare touch them in that area.

As you would expect, the docks are dark and dingy. Dank moisture lingers in the air wafting in from the sea up the river.

Abandoned Warehouses And Factories

The northern part of the city is littered with hundreds of them. Over the years the wealth and prosperity have grouped down in the southern parts of the city. As such several industrial buildings are derelict, eyesores on the city. They provide yet another layer of shielding from the stark realities of the country. You either live in New Hampton or the fishing towns, or you go elsewhere.

These warehouses and factories are not as unused as some might think…

So that’s New Hampton in a quick nutshell. As one reader describes it ‘It reminded me of a dark, gothic Batman type superhero book.’

That’s a pretty apt description of it, a city that takes over and consumes everything in its path. It is a dangerous place, with a combination of the affluent and the poor, threatening to boil over at any minute. A criminal element resides under the surface of the mysterious megalopolis of New Hampton.

Finding Fantasy Settings

by P.H. Solomon

Fantasy always seems to have some basis in fact or real world. The further along I’ve written in The Bow of Hart Saga the more I realized how much the real world had influenced my settings. All too often, the settings arrived from places I had visited long ago or even some I frequented many times over the years. Here are three places that ended up in the series without almost a thought for a long time:

1. The Auguron Oaks and the forest – I lived in Oregon as a child one summer. It was a wondrous time with many visits to various locations on the west coast that really impacted me. Having begun the original version of The Bow of Destiny some thirty years ago, I turned to places then that I had seen as a child and some of that included the rain forests of western Oregon and Washington which I visited often during that long-ago summer. On one visit, I saw trees so large that they were hundreds of feet tall – including a few redwoods. Those forests held a wonder for me and still do to this day. Auguron is a vast forest-land but the roots of those trees lie in my memories of that summer in the mid-1970s.

2. The Drelkhaz Mountains – that same summer, I first witnessed the sights of high mountains in the forms of the Cascade Mountains and the Rockies. All summer, I viewed some of the highest mountains in North America just by driving into Portland from Beaverton. Looking north on a clear day you could see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens (before it erupted and what a memory!), the Three Sisters and even Mt. Ranier. Growing up in Alabama, I didn’t get to see white-capped mountains so these majestic wonders were the first I saw in person. I even visited Mt. Hood one summer day and stood on snow while dressed in a t-shirt – quite an experience for a kid used to the humid weather of the south.

Later that summer, we drove back from Oregon cross-country. The trip took us over the Rockies and that was an even bigger thrill. Once into eastern Montana, we viewed the Grand Tetons which still stick in my mind (not to mention a trip to Yellowstone!). The Drelkhaz Mountains are a major setting of An Arrow Against the Wind and owe much of their origin from those distant days during an adventurous summer that still rides high in my memory.

3. The Funnel – this is a setting in An Arrow Against the Wind that involves a deep gorge with sheer sides at the bottom of which runs a deep river. This fictional location finds as its origin a real place near which I grew up. This little-known National Preserve is named Little River Canyon and, with drops of sometimes over 600 feet, it’s one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River. There are dramatic cliffs with incredible views and a river that runs through it. About 26 miles long, the river is a favorite for kayak enthusiasts and a place I visited several times when I was a kid until today. It’s a geologic wonder with several unique species of plants growing within its confines.

Bonus: the Troll-Neath is a deep and dark network of natural caves leading into the dwarf kingdom of Chokkra. I’ve visited many caves in the southeast that run into the southern Appalachians. Some caves in the area are rumored to go on for days according to old native American tales. A number have been explored and some have not. Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, TN, is a place where an underground river flows over a falls but no one is sure of the source and certainly not where it goes. All of these make for great sources of fantasy settings.

Finding a fantasy setting can be as easy as looking out your back door or remembering a favorite trip. I have any number of memories upon which to draw. What places would you choose to use as a fantasy book setting?

My Ten Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

by Robert I. Katz

First of all, I’ve been reading science fiction (I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction) since 1960. I very well remember the first thing that I picked up and read, other than a school assignment, just because I wanted to. I was about seven years old. It was comic book, something with a World War II submarine crew getting involved with dinosaurs. I loved it. The first actual book that I read, again, just because I wanted to read it, was At the Earth’s Core, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It had one of those wildly romantic Frank Frazetta covers. I saw it in the paperback rack at a local candy store and I wanted it. I was there with a cousin of my Father’s, who was nice enough to buy it for me, and I was hooked from that day. I was soon reading everything I could find by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and then Otis Adelbert Kline, Robert A. Heinlein, E. E. “Doc” Smith, John W. Campbell and a bunch of others. My tastes have perhaps grown more sophisticated as I’ve grown older but I still love all the books I read as a kid. Here now, my ten all time favorites:

  1. Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury: A nominee for the Hugo and the winner of the Compton Crook award, to me, this is the best science fiction novel I have ever read. The books concerns a lost civilization on the planet Geta, brought to their world in the distant past by a ship that is still in orbit, and is considered a “god” by Geta’s inhabitants. The people of Geta have pulled themselves up out of barbarism (mostly) but their world is lacking in resources and the local fauna and flora are largely poisonous. The book refers to the “sacred eight,” which are the eight foods surviving from Earth that can be eaten by the local populace. Among these are okra, wheat and bees. Since edible food is so scarce, the populace by necessity are cannibals. It is stated that those societies that rejected cannibalism have, in the end, starved to death. The specific plot concerns three brothers, their two wives and their search for a third wife to round out their family. They are challenged by their city’s leader to court one very famous, brilliant and rebellious woman, though they really desire a different and equally brilliant woman. Two different conspiracies to conquer the world are encountered and dealt with. The book is concerned with environmental principles and the needs of survival in a hostile world. It’s fantastic.
  2. Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch: The United States is involved in a war. The book’s protagonist, Louis Sachetti, has been imprisoned in a government run prison called Camp Archimedes, for reasons that are not made exactly clear but which seem to involve either draft resistance or just general resistance to the government. Camp Archimedes is a secret research facility where a mutated form of syphilis gives its victims unmatched intelligence and ultimately, inevitably kills them. A testament to the human spirit and the lengths to which dictatorial governments will go to have their way.
  3. Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks: The third in Banks’ celebrated Culture novels, and in my opinion the best. The Culture is a galaxy spanning civilization that possesses technology sufficient to satisfy every member’s material needs. They don’t use money because everything that they can possibly desire is at their fingertips. The protagonist is Cheradenine Zakalwe, an agent of the Culture who is employed by “Special Circumstances” to violently deal with wars and rebellions on backward planets in order to nudge them into more peaceful and less dictatorial ways, which works only part of the time. The book has two alternating plots, one going forward in time, the other backward, until they meet at the end of the novel, revealing a secret that puts Zakalwe’s life in an entirely different perspective. I loved it.
  4. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny: Zelazny, along with Samuel R. Delany, John Brunner, Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison and a few others, was a giant of the “New Wave” during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In this incomparable novel, a far-off colony of Earth is ruled by what appear to be the gods of the Hindu pantheon. In reality, the original colony ship’s passengers were mostly from India and the crew of the ship has assumed the aspect of the Hindu gods, with powers that seem to be partly innate but are largely machine enhanced. The protagonist is Mahasamatman, who prefers to be called Sam, a member of the crew who rebels against the other gods in an effort to bring freedom to the world. The plot of the book outlines Sam’s rebellion, success, failure and ultimate resolution. Fantastic, engrossing and absolutely brilliant.
  5. Dune by Frank Herbert: I hardly need to spend much time on this one, as it’s become increasingly famous over the years. The Atreides family has been given ownership of the planet Arrakis, or Dune, which produces “spice,” a substance that gives long life and enables navigators to guide interstellar ships. Paul Atreides must gain vengeance after his father, Leto, is betrayed and killed by the combined forces of the Emperor and the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. An enormously entertaining pot-boiler that’s beloved by many generations of science fiction readers.
  6. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: I was on a panel at a convention a few years ago when Jo Walton stated that Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh, was the second best book ever written. I asked her what the best book was and she said, “The Lord of the Rings.” I won’t argue. I know that scholars and members of University English Departments despair over this book’s popularity, but I say, ignore them. Again, I don’t need to say much about the plot, since the book is almost universally beloved. Suffice it to say that the evil Sauron has fashioned a ring of power designed to bring other rings of power under it’s sway, and our heroes, primarily the hobbit, Frodo Baggins and Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descended from the kings of old, have to deliver the ring to Mount Doom and destroy it, or Sauron will rule the world.
  7. A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay: Guy Gavriel Kay at one point worked for Christopher Tolkien and assisted in editing The Silmarilion. He was also a fervent admirer of Dorothy Dunnett, the celebrated author of the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo series. Kay’s style is reminiscent of Dunnett’s, being florid, lyrical and erudite. In my opinion, A Song for Arbonne is his best book. It’s set in an alternate history world based on medieval Provence, where musicians and poets are prized as much as warriors. The protagonist is Blaise de Garsenc, a Northern mercenary, who becomes involved in a war between Arbonne’s two principal Dukedoms, and incidentally finds himself embroiled in a plot to claim the throne of his own distant nation.
  8. The Riddlemaster Triology by Patrical McKillip: Patricia McKillip writes lyrical, gem like prose and her books are often considered young adult, but this is a fantasy that belongs among the greats. The protagonist is Morgan, the Prince of Hed, a small and unimportant island, who is destined to return wizardry to the world and must confront “The High One,” who has usurped the other wizards’ powers. It’s a wonderful story with fully rounded characters that ends up just where the reader figures it should, but the journey is worth it.
  9. A Billion Days of Earth by Doris Piserchia: Doris Piserchia published perhaps a dozen novels in the 1970’s. I thought she was fantastic but somehow, her work never became very popular. A Billion Days of Earth is delightfully wacky. Set approximately three million years from today, humanity has evolved to become “gods” and rats have gained intelligence and call themselves “human.” The plot revolves around an amorphous being called Sheen that telepathically preys on other sentient beings and the efforts of a “human” named Rik to defeat it.
  10. In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman: The tenth was a tough one. I was tempted to go with Jerusalem Fire by R. M. Meluch, but I recently re-read it and noted some plot inconsistencies that I had not remembered. I might have included Isle of the Dead, by Roger Zelazny, but I already have a Zelazny book and I know that some other authors do not share my fondness for this one. In the end, I’ll go with In Conquest Born, by C. S. Friedman. In this book, humanity is divided into two warring races, the Azeans and the Braxi. Azeans prize uniformity and peace. The Braxi are almost insanely aggressive and warlike. Over the centuries, there have been long intervals of peace but sooner or later, the Braxi always renew the war. The plot has two protagonists: Anzha, General of the Azeans and Zatar, General of the Braxi. The book revolves around numerous interconnecting plots, stratagems and counterplots, as these two come to be obsessed by the war and by each other. Both are outcasts from their own culture and it is part of the tragedy that, in the end, each is best understood by their most dedicated enemy. An immense, galaxy spanning space opera, it deserves its place among my favorite books of all time.

Evocative Imagery in Fantasy Art

by Stuart Thaman

From an early age, I always wanted to be a painter. I loved getting lost in the details of masterful art, and the sense of wonder I felt when I saw something truly incredible that wasn’t a photograph, that was something made by hand, has always stuck with me. Well, I’m terrible at making art myself, but I do like to think I have keen eye for it—at least in fantasy.

What is it with art, especially fantasy art, which captures the imagination so quickly and so thoroughly? How do we get lost within the battle scenes, cityscapes, and sweeping wings of dragons painted on the page or coming to life on the screen? What sets fantasy art apart from other genres is actually rather simple, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Firstly, due diligence must be paid to the masters. The classic painters of yore deserve all the fame they have earned, yet for most, for the average person who only offers a passing glance to the art they see every day, the wonders of the renaissance and baroque periods go largely unnoticed. There are scores of people who get easily lost in the grand scale of a Game of Thrones episode yet will not give an original Rembrandt painting more than a moment’s notice. Why?

What sets fantasy art on a different level, not necessarily a better or worse level than the classics, is the exact thing that has drawn hordes of hungry viewers to Game of Thrones. The idea of a “grand scale” is something most of the old masters never captured. They found their artistry in each and every stroke of the brush, every minute detail regarded at a critical level, and what fantasy does in almost every medium is shatter that expectation. Instead of giving the consumer something to ponder and perplex, fantasy gives us worlds to devour and endless amazement.

If you’re a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, try to think of your favorite thing in that genre—your favorite video game, book, movie, poster, whatever it is. For me, that’s the very opening scene from David Dalglish’s masterpiece The Weight of Blood. The book, which begins the acclaimed “Half-Orc” series, opens with one of the most dramatic and grandiose scenes I have ever read. Two half-orcs run near a city wall as hundreds of flaming skulls, objects of pure magic, sail overhead to fill the citizens with terror. Qurrah, one of the half-orcs, is also a necromancer, though he is untrained. He gets his first real test in the opening scene, which he passes, that also brings him to a startling revelation. Desperately out of energy in his brother’s arms, he realizes that the well of magic he is connected to is unending: “The well is limitless.”

The well is limitless.

That line packs such a poignant punch it can hardly be adequately described. The opening scene of the book is only a page or two long, yet it vividly captures the imagination just like a dramatic movie trailer or an action packed cinematic release for a video game—just like incredible art. But that’s what books are, at least at some level, and at least to some people. Books are art. Most people pass by the majority of them without notice. Those with a keen eye find the absolute gems, and anyone with an imagination gets something more. The imaginative reader gets to watch the books they read. They get to turn each page and find a fresh painting done by the most masterful hand waiting to suck them in with every word, each letter at once becoming a highly detailed brush stroke.

Fantasy in all its glorious forms strives to capture the most powerful sense of wonder humans are capable of feeling, and then it tries to distill that emotion into something tangible. When we experience the best fantasy has to offer, we get lost in it. The grand scale, the epic nature of absolutely everything in the scene, and the sweeping beauty of each part coming together in just the right way coalesce to form exact idea Dalglish captured in his opening. No matter what the media is, the artistry of epic fantasy is what gets people to save a piece as their desktop wallpaper, or to read a thousand page book six times a year, or to spend thousands of hours playing only one game. When it comes to fantasy, that well is limitless.

Futurism as Shown Through Tom Cruise and Will Smith Movies

by Julia Vee

Have you ever noticed that Tom Cruise and Will Smith have been in a bunch of sci fi films? If not, maybe it’s just me.

One of my absolute favorite books that I have read this year is All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. For a fan of military sci-fi, this brilliant story has it all. A bloody hopeless future fighting an alien invasion on earth, in mech suits of course. The English translation is already so good, I can only imagine how good it is in the original Japanese. (The English version has a glowing intro by John Scalzi, as well.)

Imagine my delight when I heard there was a movie version. Only, it’s got a different name—Edge of Tomorrow. Now, this article is not a discussion of how the book is way better than the movie. So let’s just start with the tagline of the film poster and how it’s a great hook – “LIVE. DIE. REPEAT.” Immediately, the viewer knows this is a futuristic military film that involves…time loops.

Let’s talk about those battle suits. Gritty, bulky, and hard edged, the stripped down version of the battle suit apparently weighed 85 lbs! The amped up version with sniper rifle and rocket launcher weighed 130 lbs.

And what about those quadcopter dropships? Apparently the movie dropship design was  based on the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. Notable feature of that bird – ability to tilt its rotors to fly as either planes or choppers.

As good as Edge of Tomorrow is, it pales in comparison to Minority Report for futuristic elements. Flash back to this Spielberg film of 2002 and it still holds up for its sleek high tech vision of the future. Most interesting to me were the modes of travel:

  • Solo uncovered elevators that lift individuals up several stories;
  • Jet pods that spiral around the outer edge of the urban stretches;
  • Helicopters that are basically giant flying nautilus shapes.

Never mind the whole mind crime element, the visuals of this film really bring it home how far we are from Spielberg’s vision of how future technology could change our lives.

On to Will Smith. He’s been in a lot of scifiction, post-apocalyptic films. (And he’s in Bright, a cop film where humans live side by side with elves, orcs and other magical elements.) But we’re not going to talk about After Earth, I am Legend, or the Men in Black films.

I, Robot is set in 2035. Now keep in mind, this film is from 2004 so the writers no doubt thought thirty years was a long time away. Plenty of time for technology to shape our lives in such a dramatic fashion. But now it’s 2018. So we’re talking 17 years into the future. Very near future.

The film elements do a great job of keeping things mostly the same. Will Smith still drives a car (but he never seems to have to deal with traffic). The weaponry looks standard, and the cityscape is still recognizable. So the movie saves all of its futurism for the robots. The robots are all humanoid. They walk our dogs, nanny our children, and live with humans in their domestic capacity. The other futuristic elements are reserved for the lab/manufacturing facility. It’s ultramodern, decked out in chrome, glass and bright white walls and flooring.

And though Elon Musk predicted that our greatest threat is from AI, I think it is safe to assume that we are unlikely to have manufacturing of android armies in an urban environment. Rent is just too high.

But the lab design process rings true. I live in Silicon Valley, and I can easily stop imagine that the biotech labs of Milpitas all along the HWY 880 are housed with facilities like that of US Robotics in the film. And Musk is right, the tests of AI (on Twitter bots, etc.) reveal how they go terribly wrong with our present programming capabilities. So it seems more likely that the threat raised in I, Robot is not so much a physical army of robots threatening mankind is not so much in our future but rather, the Skynet vision of the Terminator.


And that concludes today’s Futurism as told through movies segment. Julia Vee writes about Futurism and Fiction on www.juliavee.com.

Fine Line Between Fact & Fiction

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by Peter Cawdron

Science fiction is make-believe.

Even at its finest, it’s nothing more than conjecture and hypotheticals, and yet people flock to movies where characters flash lightsabers and fly around in exotic spacecraft. Why?

I think science fiction speaks to our longing for the horizon, our nomadic nature yearning for something beyond the hum drum and repetition of daily life. We’re adventurous by nature, but real-life adventures carry costs and risks. Fiction satisfies this itch, allowing us to explore far-flung worlds from the safety of an armchair.

When it comes to science fiction, our dreams can become reality.

While America was engulfed in a civil war, an obscure French author penned a story called From Earth to the Moon. At the time, steam engines were in vogue. Sailing ships and the trusty horse and cart dominated commerce. The idea of launching to the Moon was a flight of pure fantasy on the part of Jules Verne, and yet just over a hundred years later Neil Armstrong stepped out on the dusty lunar surface.

During the early 1960s, a struggling writer developed a story about a wagon train going to the stars. He struggled to secure finances for his wild, new concept. When Lucille Ball heard the title “Star Trek,” she thought it was a reality show following USO performers around the world as they toured for US troops. Lucille overruled her own board to get the pilot made without realizing she was helping make science fiction history.

Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek gave the world a glimpse of the future.

Handheld communicators eventually became the smart phones we enjoy today. Paperless tablet computers on the show inspired iPads. Automatic sliding doors became common place in malls and shops. Non-invasive medical scans found their future in MRI and CT scanners, but beyond that, Star Trek spoke of a new world. Racism was relegate to history, as was nationalism. Reason, it seemed, would dominate the future, not tribal superstitions.

We still have a way to go before the dreams of Gene Roddenberry are realized, but the fiction of today is often the facts of tomorrow. So whenever you read science fiction or watch a scifi movie, pause to consider which aspects may lie in our future.


Peter Cawdron is the author of Retrograde

Top Ten Sci-Fi & Fantasy Series

by R.R. Virdi

Sci-fi and fantasy books have millions of fans around the world, and it’s fair to say in the world of self-publishing, those numbers are being published yearly as well. So, with an endless number to read, growing by the second in fact, how do you pick where to start next? This guide is a completely subjective top ten list on where to begin to sate your SFF cravings. This list will also be excluding The Lord of the Rings for obvious reasons. It’s a bit too well known and goes without saying as a great series to read. Same with Dune.

  1. The Wheel of Time: Robert Jordan

This epic has been so successful, Jordan went onto be known as the American Tolkien. The Wheel of Time is an epic high fantasy of unparalleled writing, world building, and stakes. The series spans 14 novels and totals well over 4,000,000 words. The Wheel of Time focuses on a multiple point-of-view journey among characters battling against the return of Shaitan, the dark one or lord, and his endless minions. A mythical figure, The Dragon Reborn, is supposed to be reborn and walk the line between madness and clarity, and use his gifts to banish the darkness, hopefully for good this time. The struggle has continued throughout the ages, will this be the final time? Will light finally conquer the dark, or will the cycle continue?

  1. The Mistborn Trilogy: Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn series is beloved by many, and for good reason. It’s an epic fantasy of hard, codified magic known as, Allomancy, the manipulation and consumption of metals. Yes, you read that right, in the dystopian world of Scadrial, Allomancers have the ability to ingest certain metals that will give them temporary abilities. A certain subgroup of Allomances called, Mistborn, have the rare gift to consume any metal and use the corresponding abilities. The characters are beautifully written, the plot amazingly executed, and the world building goes beyond anything else, so much so, you’ll have to read many of Sanderson’s other works to fully grasp the breadth of it all. That’s not a bad thing. If you love hard magic, evil empires, action like out of things like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you’ll love this series.

  1. The Kingkiller Chronicle: Patrick Rothfuss

This series isn’t complete, something many fans have bemoaned about for nearly a decade. But, don’t let that deter you. The first two books are well worth it. The prose is near-poetic, almost song-like. Rothfuss weaves a wonderful picaresque following a roguish legend in his own world as he tells his story to a travelling chronicler over the span of three days. The audience knows and impending doom is coming, the protagonist, the mythical, Kvote (pronounced: Quothe), lets us know he’s expecting to die soon. That doesn’t stop him from regaling us with a tale of mischief, heartache, trauma, ambition, love, loss, and the stuff epics are made of. A wonderful blend of hard and soft magic make up this series. The story continues to pull you along smoothly, page-after-page, as you navigate Kvothe’s early years, up until the end of book two. It’s been said the man has killed an angel, spoken to gods, killed a demon, burned a town, and so much more. Does he live up to legend? You tell me.

  1. The Dresden Files: Jim Butcher

My personal number 1 favorite. This hard-hitting, noir, semi-automagical series follows Harry Blackthorne Copperfield Dresden, professional wizard, and he’s in the phonebook. It’s urban fantasy at its best. Flawed, hope-inspiring characters battling themselves just as much as the forces of supernatural evil, and sometimes just plain mortal darkness. The fae, gods, vampires, werewolves, all your favorite mythological creatures, along with many lesser-known ones. Harry’s day job is as PI in Chicago, and magic doesn’t pay the bills all that well. He lives of consultancy work for the local PD, and the series begins when a magical drug sweeps through streets, and a grisly penthouse murder requires his expertise. 15 books in, and 8 more to go, The Dresden Files is a must read magical fantasy set today. Magic. Monsters. Mischief.

  1. The Lost Fleet: Jack Campbell

This interstellar military sci fi focuses on a century-long war between two human groups divided by culture. Our main character, Captain John Geary, also known as “Black Jack”, is a legend for a last stand he led 100 years ago. Now out of suspended animation, he’s put up to the task of winning the war. If only it was the easy. This is one of the military sci fi series that has led to a string of imitators because, well, it’s brilliant.

  1. The Black Company: Glen Cook

A grim dark military fantasy that was killing off beloved characters long before the name, Martin, was uttered for doing so. The series focuses on an elite mercenary company doing the hard jobs, the dirty ones, and the ones that lead to an early grave. Spanning nearly 10 books, the Black Company’s story is wonderful told, reveals gritty and gorgeously complicated/flawed characters, and the horrible things they have had to and will do. It’s not a pretty series. There isn’t always a happy ending. And sometimes, bad things do just happen, but in this world, a lot of the times their done by bad people. Get used to it. If you want a hardcore and gruesome military fantasy, this is what you’re looking for.

  1. Discworld: Terry Pratchett

A master of humor, whimsy, and hitting you on the nose with philosophy wrapped in sarcasm and wittery, Terry Pratchett’s work is nothing short of brilliant and masterful. Discworld is in fact a collection of stories from multiple series focusing on different protagonists set in, yes, Discworld. It’s a flat world resting on the backs of four elephants standing atop a giant space sailing turtle. Yes, you read that right. It’s hilarious, tackles all manner of complicated socio-political issues with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, is full of parodies of fantasy clichés and tropes, and just so much more. Don’t worry, Discworld consists of only around 40 novels. Get reading. You’re going to be busy for a while.

  1. Redwall: Brian Jacques

Welcome to a world where animals are the main characters, a world spanning 22 years and with 15 novels published so far. Travel to Redwall Abbey and meet the peaceful residents who’ve lived a pleasant life…until a ship of pillaging/pirating rats lands in the distance and its crew seeks to kill/enslave all those in their way. The novels are written in a nonlinear fashion, jumping through time to tell the tales of legends past, and heroes coming after the original novel: Redwall. The books are entertaining and easy to get swept up by, and they appeal to all ages.

  1. The Icewind Dale Trilogy: R.A. Salvatore

One of the earliest fantasy greats I can remember. Most fantasy nerds do not need an introduction to one of the most iconic characters ever, Drizzt Do’Urden, dark elf, hero, and legend. This trilogy, only a small number of the books penned by Salvatore and following the journeys of the famous dark elf rogue, is what started it all. Any Dungeons and Dragons fan must read these. But, if you’re one of those, chances are you already have. And, if you haven’t, fix that now!

  1. The Expanse: James S.A. Corey

Set in a future where we humans have colonized much of our solar system, the various groups among our galaxy are taking issue with one another, raising tensions. The series carries all of the story plots you want to see out of a space travelling/space ship series: pirates, space battles, political scheming, machine organisms, aliens, and new sorts of space travel.

Gearing Up for the Apocalypse

by Joshua C. Chadd

James and Connor Andderson are two brothers who’re patriots and outdoorsmen. They’re suddenly thrown into the apocalypse, but unlike most, they’re prepared. Or so they thought. They have a plethora of badass gear throughout both of the Brother’s Creed books so far. They’ll also be getting more awesome gear as the story progresses in the next couple books. In this blog, I’ll go over that gear (a lot of which I own, so I have a working knowledge of it). Here we go!

Both brothers wear Kryptek hunting/tactical gear. Not only is it the best camouflage in both industries, but it is owned and operated by All-American Heroes. The brothers have full sets of the Highlander hunting line, but will later get suits more oriented toward the tactical side in the Typhon pattern. Check out Kryptek at https://kryptek.com/

Both brother’s also wear a typical tactical vest for their spare magazines and a few other assorted items.

James, the oldest but smaller brother, carries a Smith & Wesson M&P 15. This is an AR-15 style rifle that shoots .223/5.56 rounds. He has a foregrip, tactical light, IR laser, bipod, suppressor and Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24 variable scope on it. It’s a very accurate and deadly weapon that is perfect for taking down the pesky zombies! He is also very capable shooting it, although not as much as his brother. James also carries a Remington 1911 handgun in .45 ACP.

Connor, the younger but more bulky of the brothers, carries a Bushmaster AR-15 that also shoots .223/5.56. His is equipped with a foregrip, tactical light, IR laser, bipod, and suppressor, but his scope is a Trijicon ACOG 4×32 BAC. He is an ace shot and his Marine training pays off as they face more than just zombies. He carries a Kimber Custom Pro 1911 handgun in .45 ACP.

Oh, another thing they always carry is a tactical tomahawk on the opposite hip from their handguns. Perfect for crackin’ skulls!

Now, the next stuff is gear that (more than likely) they’ll be getting in the next book. This stuff is awesome because I don’t have any experience with it and had to research it. This gear is on my wish list and way badass, get ready!

The Bushmaster ACR. This awesome gun not only looks slightly futuristic but has some awesome features. One of which allows you to change out the barrels without losing your zero! There are some other cool guns in this article as well, so check ‘em out! http://www.tactical-life.com/firearms/top-20-next-gen-combat-rifles/3/#bushmaster-acr-dmr-gen-evergreen-lead

Also something they will be finding is this tank of a vehicle! My sister-in-law actually found this and said it’d be awesome to have in the books, she was right! The Terradyne Gurkha is a force to be reckoned with and is perfect for the end of the world! I mean just check out these awesome specs! https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/terradyne-gurkha-rpv-civilian-edition-news-specs-pictures/#ixzz4fVw2wKI1

Well, that’s all I have for now. I hope you have enjoyed this look into the Andderson brothers’ gear. If you’d like to know more about their gear or how they use it, be sure to check out The Brother’s Creed series on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073HGF2YK/

PS- Here is the cover of the latest book, as it shows the characters with all their gear.

Speculative Fiction: A Safe Space for Exploring Topical Issues?

 

by Chloe Garner

I don’t know if you’ve looked around recently, but the world is kind of a tricky place. Issues concerning race and cultural identity live at the forefront of everything in the American news cycle, and I know that different versions of the same conversations are going on all over the world. Problems that I wouldn’t even imagine for the sake of my own fiction are very real, and no one wants anyone else to tell them what they are, what they should want, who they should be.

And I get that. There are no good answers.  Most of us have been mistreated at some point, and no one wants to see things they identify with painted as villainous, either in the real world or in fiction. It creates a situation that – I’ve gotta tell you – is challenging for a fiction writer. Fiction is about the way the world is, the way the world could be, the way the world has been, and the way the world should be. Underneath of that, there are statements, theories, ideas, perspectives, pictures of what it means to be human.  Thoughts about the way humans are, what’s normal, what’s not, what’s okay, and what really isn’t.

And those are really, really important to me, as a person, as a reader, and as a writer.

Conversations among authors are hot with passionate opinions about how to treat characters by type. I was in a class where a woman argued that describing a woman as ‘small’ was sexist, and I’ve more recently seen a statement that creating a bisexual assassin character plays on negative stereotypes about bisexual individuals. And sensitivity here is important. It’s also paralyzing. No one wants to see their people set up as villains. Even if the evil of the character has nothing to do with their race, class, or cultural associations, they don’t like it, and that’s perfectly rational, perfectly reasonable, and something I’m wholly empathetic to.

But fiction needs conflict.

And some women are small. And thieves exist most everywhere in the world.  As do cheats and liars and busybodies.

Add to this a genuinely held belief that a writer does not have the ability to speak from a perspective that he has not experienced, be it racially, culturally, economically, or elsewise, and I often find myself at a loss. Because fiction remains important.  Stories about people, regardless of where they come from or what formed them, they’re critical to empathy and our ability to look outside of ourselves and understand how others might experience the world.

We must tell stories.

More and more, both as a reader and as an author, I find that I take refuge in the world of fantasy. The things that are true about fantasy characters are also true about real people, but the divide between who is allowed to tell a story and whether or not their perspective is biased or inappropriate vanishes because we are now talking about races that do not have a real history – indeed, they have a complete history that exists solely in the head of the writer. Conflicts can be as complex as they need to be, but without the risk of underplaying a dynamic that is core to someone’s real life. Without the risk of speaking for the collective experience of a group, authors are free to create an experience that has an authentic and instructive perspective.

For much of my life, the grown ups have looked at fantasy as a form of childish play. Something that I would outgrow, that I would join the adult world in its pursuit of more adult fiction.

As I sit here today, thinking about what I want to write, what I care about, and the things that I believe are true, I wonder if maybe more childish play is exactly what we need.  Play is where we learn to interact safely and healthily with others, and it’s about instruction more than agenda. The things that we have always needed fiction for remain true, today, perhaps even more than ever, but we close doors and condemn them as venues of conversation. Some writers are simply brave, but in being brave, they take on an additional layer of responsibility for being fair to all of the parties and types and groups that they’re representing.

I love speculative fiction. I always have. I don’t want to write fiction that is necessarily fair: I want to write fiction that is authentic and real and meaningful, even if it is about vampires and demons and aliens and magic. I think that, rather than being a barrier to reality, these separations from the real world form a protective shield, a barrier that protects these stories from the pressure to conform to sincere, well-meaning rules, and just tell the story that needs to be there.