Friday, February 24, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for February 24, 2017

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with discussions about dystopian fiction, lots of new awards nominations, including the Nebula, Bram Stoker and David Gemmell Legend Awards, comments on Logan as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on Logan:

Awards:

Reviews:

Science and technology:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fruiting Bodies by Guy Riessen

Release date: February 16, 2017
Subgenre: Horror

About Fruiting Bodies:

 

It’s 1979 and a secret all-out war between science and nature has erupted in the forests of the eastern United States.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, also known as the Zombie Fungus, infects the brains of ants. A daring military mission has recovered samples and it looks like the fungus just evolved into humanity’s worst nightmare.


Excerpt:


There wasn’t enough starlight filtering through the branches to light up shit. Johnny “Shrub” Kieterman reached up and snapped on the IR LED, switching the goggles to active-vision. Looking down, he saw filaments glowing in the infrared, filling the hole, looking like spider webs or arteries. He could see and feel the stuff undulating and writhing around his calves.
     Shrub tugged at his legs, pulling up at his right knee with both hands. His leg remained stuck. He yanked his tac-knife from the sheath on his thigh and jabbed and sawed into the glowing threads. In the green light, more glowing white goo leaked from everywhere along the sides of the hole, staining his pants, blade and hands. He cut with his right and dug and pulled at the filaments with his left. The hole seemed to be filling with the thin webbing faster than he could cut it away. As he watched, a thicker vein of material as big around as his gloved thumb slithered and jerked out of the muddy side, flopping wetly from side to side, twisting and moving like a worm freshly baited on a hook. 
     Shrub’s breath came hot and fast now as panic set in. He could see the thick, white, probing thing twisting closer to his boot. As soon as it touched the canvas and leather, it pulsed out from the side of the hole, twisting, wrapping and entwining from the heel of his boot up his calf. The pointed tip, glowing wetly in the artificial light appeared to back up, then jabbed into the back of his knee, right between the straps of his knee pad. Pain shot through Shrub’s leg, like alcohol poured on an open wound.
     The pain urging him on, Shrub sliced through the pulsing thumb-thick appendage and hauled his feet out of the grip of the thrumming webs. He fell backwards, knocking the AN/PVS-5 off his helmet. Gooseflesh raised across his skin; He scraped and rubbed with both hands where the white root had penetrated his knee. He grabbed the sample case again and tried to race for the tree line. His knees weren’t working at all, so he shuffled on his thighs and forearms, his knife still gripped in his right hand. With his left, he dragged the case.
     Painful heat was spreading out from the wound. The tree line was getting closer.
His eye caught his pale reflection in the knife blade. His face a grimace of pain and determination, and what the hell?  He looked at his reflected eye, and he could see the red veins from the corner to iris bulging, even pulsing. His sclera writhed with motion beneath the surface.
     Shrub grabbed the red smoke grenade from his tac-belt. The bad-shit-is-going-down red smoke. He pulled the paper-tabbed wire ring with his teeth and threw it as hard as he could through the trees and out into the clearing. He could see the red puffs beginning to billow and spread from the aluminum can. His arms twitching and not quite responding, he pulled the silver sample case up and back to the side. He saw the flesh of his forearm start to bubble. Lumps rose and fell, tracks of raised, web-like tracings sliding and moving just below the skin.
 

Amazon | Apple iTunes | Kobo | Google Play 

 

About Guy Riessen:


Guy Riessen is an American author of contemporary dark fiction spanning the science fiction, horror, fantasy and crime genres. Born in 1967 in South Dakota, he grew up in the Southern California beach town of Huntington Beach. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985, graduated with a degree in English from UC Berkeley, and has been living in the wild lands north of San Francisco ever since. After nearly two decades of creating artwork in the visual effects industry for feature films, he returned to his first passion: writing speculative fiction.

Website

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

Release date: February 21, 2017
Subgenre: Alternate history, magical realism

About The Mercy of the Tide:

 

Riptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down at a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening―a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town's beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives―leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever. At the heart of the story are Sam Finster, a senior in high school mourning the death of his mother, and his sister Trina, a nine-year-old deaf girl who denies her grief by dreaming of a nuclear apocalypse as Cold War tensions rise. Meanwhile, Sheriff Dave Dobbs and Deputy Nick Hayslip must try to put their own sorrows aside to figure out who, or what, is wreaking havoc on their once-idyllic town. 

Keith Rosson paints outside the typical genre lines with his brilliant debut novel. It is a gorgeously written book that merges the sly wonder of magical realism and alternate history with the depth and characterization of literary fiction.

Excerpt:


Trina learned to fear the bomb two weeks after her mother died, and she fell into that fear like someone slipping into bed after a hard day’s work. Fell into it with a relief that bordered on gratitude. When she thought of the bomb, she felt like someone who was gravely ill witnessing a terrible and violent event: a merciless distraction, but at least one outside of her own body.
When thoughts of her mother came now, thoughts that made her ache and curl up in bed like a plant without sunlight, she read The Looming Error. She read about Mutual Assured Destruction—M.A.D.—and at night those three letters ran the plainsong of their zippered teeth along her heart as she stared at the ceiling wishing for sleep. It was a lullaby that made her heart fearful and clumsy, those three letters, that idea, but—and this was the important part—it took up too much room to worry about anything else. To feel sad for herself. To miss her mom. The world, Trina knew, was doomed, and it was terrible, but there was some part of her that felt glad that at least this part of it would be over. The world wouldn’t survive, and there was something freeing about that, like finally throwing up after you’ve felt sick for a long, long time.
Those three letters, M.A.D., and how they spelled the end of everything. The book lay under her bed and sometimes it felt like she slept above a bomb for all the power it had.
The thing she hated most about the Soviets and the United States both was their babyishness. How much they seemed like grumpy, spoiled kids playing with toys they didn’t want to give up. There was a lot about the negotiations in the book, and she could picture it all too well, the two countries discussing things in a big room somewhere, everyone with their own glass of water by their hands, old white men in suits trying to work out trades in practically the same way that she and Sam had bartered the gross parts of their school lunches when she was a baby back in first grade:
United States: We want you to reduce the number of your SS-20 missile launchers in Europe, okay? You have 243 of them and we want you to only have 75.

Russia: Hmm. Okay. If you also only have 75 launchers for your Tomahawk cruise missiles there as well.

United States: Fine by us.

Russia: Ha! Except we both know that your Tomahawks carry four warheads compared to the one warhead of the SS-20, so you would have like 300 warheads to our 75! Cheater!

Trina knew they did not actually talk like this, but still. Practically.

Amazon | B&N | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Goodreads | Meerkat Press

 

About Keith Rosson:

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels THE MERCY OF THE TIDE (2017, Meerkat) and SMOKE CITY (2018, Meerkat). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.

Website | Twitter 

 

About Meerkat Press

 Meerkat Press is an independent publisher committed to finding and publishing exceptional, irresistible, unforgettable fiction. And despite the previous sentence, we frown on overuse of adjectives and adverbs in submissions. *smile*

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | YouTube | Pinterest

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Continue Online Together (Part 5 of Continue Online) by Stephan Morse

Release date: January 24, 2017
Subgenre: LitRPG, Cyberpunk

About Continue Online Together:

 

Since stepping through the gateway to Continue, Grant has been many things: a dying hero, a malevolent imp, a robotic space explorer, and felon seeking redemption. Now he’s added a new role to the list—married man to a virtual woman. In his mind, nothing could be more perfect, but his newlywedded bliss is in jeopardy.

Trillium pulled the trigger on a digital Armageddon and the games have changed. Virtual people are being hunted down then deleted forever. Players’ characters are removed if they die three times. The AIs have a plan to fight back and protect their citizens by storing as much data as possible into a haven, including Xin’s.

To help secure the survival of his friends and wife, Grant will seek the secrets to salvation left behind from the game’s first heroes and programming team. Along the way, Grant reunites with old companions, sets aside past grudges, and pulls out every trick he’s ever been taught to help him in the race against digital death.

Failure means Grant will lose Xin a second time, but success may cost him even more.

Excerpt:


Commencement
X-O This

Attention!
Due to recent changes in the Trillium policy, this event is now being televised nationally. Any entity working on the event quests may be viewed by people who do not actively play Continue Online or might have been blocked from joining until the event is complete.
Be aware that you may opt out of being observed directly. This does not prevent watchers from seeing your actions through other Travelers or certain skills and spells. However, allowing access to your character may provide bonuses if enough attention is received.
“Look at this.” The single mother pointed at a digital display screen. Elizabeth had spent the last hour trying to find the display feed for her slightly younger twin brother. The idiot was in the middle of his latest insane virtual life crisis.
“Really, Mom? You’re going to keep spying on him?” Her daughter stood in the front room with half a sandwich remaining. The other portion had been eaten in five large bites with little signs of chewing.
Liz’s front room was directly adjacent a wide open archway that went into the kitchen. Liz preferred working out here since it had the least cluttered wall space in her house. Larger projections made seeing finer details easier.
Half of the wall was currently taken up with an image of her brother, Grant. He was in game and busy working on setting up a campfire and tent. Beth and Liz both got a strange third-person view of the man as he moved around. A shovel, which had been used to dig a pit, lay to one side. Objects appeared in Grant’s hand and were driven into the ground.
“It’s not spying. It’s like watching the latest season of Biggest Loser,” Liz said.
Beth’s eyebrows slid downward while she chewed. Her nose wrinkled and one hand brought up the house’s digital display. She poked at the buttons to search for the show her mom had mentioned.
“Wasn’t that show canceled, like, when you and Uncle Grant were in diapers?” Beth said. Another portion of food went in her face.
“There’s a show for it?” Liz turned and took note of her daughter’s unsightly eating habits. “I always thought it was the story of the Legates’ life.”
Liz went toward one wall and pressed a button. Out popped a small circular machine designed to clear the floors after her daughter got done making a mess. The device was a gift from Liz’s mother—with a note that said no woman should be forced to slave away on cleaning.
“Mhm. Latest date didn’t work out? I told you a man named Ulrich probably wouldn’t be any good.” Beth finished her sandwich and looked around.
The small robot started vacuuming up crumbs.
“He wasn’t. I swear, I’m going to have to buy an ARC myself. Maybe there’s a program on there to remind me what a decent man feels like.” Liz left up the screen with her brother on it. With her other hand, she flipped through a website for work. Eventually she would find more than a short assignment. Employment was getting more difficult to find, even in her field.


Amazon

 

Part 1, Continue Online Memories will be free until February 23.

 

 

About Stephan Morse: 

Stephan Morse was born the year 1983 in San Diego. The next fifteen years were spent slowly escaping California and surviving a public education system. Thus far he's made it to the Seattle (WA) region with little desire to go further. When not trying to shove words together into sentences Stephan spends time reading, catching up on sleep, and otherwise living a mundane life.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Deep Wood (Sunshine Walkingstick, Book 2) by Celia Roman

Release date: February 17, 2017
Subgenre: Urban fantasy, folklore

About The Deep Wood

 

When my boy Henry was killed, I tracked a pooka through the deep wood for three days with no food in my gut and only my daddy's hunting knife for comfort. Was what got me into the monster killing business, that pooka, and I ain't regretted a single day of it since.

The day I stumbled on a four-legged critter with human eyes, the rightness of my revenge begun to unravel, leading me to a clan of two-natured shifters what'd been living under my nose the whole time. And when the two-natured started showing up in odd places, stalking humans in a very unnatural way, weren't nothing I could do but dig to the bottom of it.

And what I found turned my world and ever thing I knowed upside down.

Author's Note: The Deep Wood was written in the native dialect of the narrator, found in the rural areas of the Southern Appalachians. The grammar, spelling, and syntax are not standardized American English.

Excerpt:


Riley leaned back, slumping into the couch’s worn cushions. “What about you? You find anything?”
“Tall tales, legends. Nothing to explain why them painters is acting the way they is.”
I pursed my lips together, hesitant to tell him about the human eyes of the painter me and David found. Letting Riley read an encyclopedia about fairies weren’t nothing a’tall. He couldn’t get hurt sitting on my couch a-reading, but the more I told him, the deeper he’d sink into this dark, dangerous world I lived in. Did I really want him to see that side of me? Did I really wanna throw him in harm’s way without proper cause?
Riley tucked a finger in the book, holding his place, and slid his free hand up and down my thigh, up and down, soothing me. “What’s wrong, baby?”
I shook my head. “Nothing. It’s just…”
“It’s just what?” he asked gentle like, and the wealth of patience in his voice sparked something in me, something lonely and small and in need of the friendship he offered.
“That painter me and David found?”
“What about it?”
“It had human eyes.”
His hand paused and them hazel eyes of his widened. “What?”
“Human eyes,” I repeated. “Like mine or yourn. You know. Round of pupil? Not like a cat’s a’tall.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shrugged. “Didn’t seem important.”
He sat there a long time just looking at me, his expression dead and flat and somehow bleak. At last, he said, “What kind of animal has human eyes?”
I don’t know why, but his answer lifted a weight off my shoulders I weren’t aware bore down on ‘em. “Shifters and such. Transmogrifiers.”
“Like werewolves?”
“Them’s the most common.” Or the most talked about anyhow, but that didn’t seem pertinent, and I weren’t sure I wanted him to know more about them sorts of critters nohow.
“You ever hear of panthers in this area turning into humans?” His shoulders shifted impatient like under his t-shirt. “Or humans into panthers.”
“No, but that don’t mean they ain’t none.”
“Maybe that’s what you should be looking for, then. It might explain the panthers singling you out.”
I narrowed my eyes on him. I hadn’t told him word one about my suspicions along them lines, so how’d he know? “Who you been talking to?”
“Missy told me about the panther you saw on the trail between here and Fame’s. And then the one at the wedding?” He shrugged, this’un looser and casual. “Seems logical.”
I clucked my tongue at him. “Riley, honey, ain’t nothing logical about monsters.”
“Sure there is.” He held up the book he was a-reading and waggled it at me. “Every creature in here operates by rules of some sort, biological or societal or whatever. You just have to figure out what rules govern the panther-humans.”
“If they is human.”
“You’ll figure it out.” He flopped over on me and planted a big smooch on my mouth, and
sorta laid there for a minute, looking at me all serious. “Don’t ever hide anything from me again, Sunny. Not anything.”
I couldn’t quite agree to that, but lucky for me, he drawed his own conclusions and went back to his studies. Me, I picked up the Foxfire book like he hadn’t rattled me good, and pretended to search for answers ‘til the butterflies in my stomach settled down and I didn’t have to pretend no more.

Amazon

 

About Celia Roman:


Celia Roman lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina in an historic farmhouse built by her great-grandfather. Her stories are inspired by a natural interest in the paranormal and too many late night reruns of Supernatural.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for February 17, 2017

Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with discussion about romance in science fiction, comments on The Expanse, Legion, The Great Wall and The Lego Batman Movie as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on The Great Wall:

Comments on Legion

Comments on The Expanse:

Comments on The Lego Batman Movie:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Reviews:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chronicles of the Last Days (Dragonsfall, Book 3) by Amelia Smith

Release date: January 31, 2017
Subgenre: Epic fantasy

About Chronicles of the Last Days:

 

Myril doesn't need prophecy to see that her world is going to end – the city is sinking before her eyes. Foreign ships fill Anamat harbor, bringing traders bent on pillaging the city’s treasures – with help from the governor – as its people flee to hostile lands.

Her guildmaster calls on her to help save the Chronicles of Anamat from the pillagers. Meanwhile, her old friend Darna needs healing, Iola wants to go to her death in the dragons’ realm, and the Defenders are airing their secrets at just the wrong time.

How will any of them survive when the waters rise again?

Excerpt:



Darna looked out over the Anamat valley from a border shrine tucked high in the mountains. She’d just glimpsed a dragonlet of Anara, or rather, she thought she might have, but she wasn’t quite sure. With dragonlets, you could never be sure. The scene spread out ahead of her was a different matter. It had definitely changed since she’d last seen it, less than a moon-round before. The sea shone in the midday sun, just as it had then, but now it shone all the way up to its new, muddy banks, far inland from where they’d been before. The road into the city was mostly dry, but water encroached on it near the West Gate Market. An inlet ran up to one of the larger villages, where before there’d been only a stream. Boats moored on its banks in what had once been pasturelands, and a few tents stood nearby.
A quarter of the city was up to its ankles in water. “What have I done?” Darna thought aloud.
You haven’t done anything,” Sunna scolded her. Darna hadn’t meant to speak aloud. “It’s the dragons, getting revenge on the Cereans. Look at them.” She waved her hand at the tents and boats. “Crawling all over us.”
“It looks more like revenge on us,” Raina said. “But Sunna’s right. This is Na’s work, and he answers to no priestess, nor princes either. Maybe the other dragons are all going wild. Even if you moved some bits of stone out of place, you didn’t shake the earth; only they can do that.”
Darna couldn’t explain to them why she’d felt her own hand in the shift of the land, even if it had been a dragon’s force behind it. She’d known where the power ran through the earth and she’d helped to do something that she’d known was not quite right. Then she’d called up the dragon, or at least given Salara strength on that last day, the strength to do this. Salara had given her strength, too, but it had a price. She was pretty sure that the cramps in her gut were only the start of it.
The shift of the earth and the rising of the sea were echoes of what had happened when she and her lover had given strength to a wild dragon, strength to shake off the invaders – and to destroy themselves, it seemed.
“We’d better go on, if we want to get to Raina’s place before dark,” Sunna said.
It seemed absurd to worry about how far they had to walk that day when the city was ruined, or at least well on its way to ruin.
“We won’t get there before dark, even if we could keep up a good pace,” Raina said. They’d been traveling slowly so far because of Darna’s cramps. “We could get in by midnight if we pushed through,” Raina said. She was probably eager to get back to her house and her mostly fosterling children.
The three women set out again, Sunna and Raina flanking Darna, guarding her. The view of the city slid behind the trees for a while. The change in the land had been different in Slaradun. Terrifying there, too, except that she’d been beyond terror in Salara’s embrace. Besides, the province had been so bleak and barren to begin with that it felt almost like a mercy to destroy it, like the death of her lover so soon after he had gone mad. He’d said that he didn’t want to live that way, but she wondered if death was what he’d really wanted in the end.

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple iTunes | Google Play | Smashwords

 

The prequel Scrapplings is free throughout February.


About Amelia Smith:


Amelia Smith writes magazine articles about Martha's Vineyard, fantasy sagas about dragons, and blog posts about nothing in particular. To learn more about her, visit www.ameliasmith.net.

Website | Twitter