Annotated Excerpt: DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan (Tachyon)

BrennanM-D1-DriftwoodDriftwood might be the oddest novel I’ve written, and I say that as somebody whose previous novel is composed of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, and the footnoted translation of an ancient mythological epic.

Part of the reason for that oddness is the setting, which is composed of the still-decaying fragments of mostly-destroyed worlds. But part is that it didn’t start life as a novel: it’s what’s known as a “fix-up,” composed of short stories joined together to make a larger whole. (If you find yourself thinking, “huh, so the form of the book reflects the form of the setting,” give yourself a cookie: that’s why I decided to create a fix-up rather than writing a more conventional novel.) For this excerpt, I’ve decided to give you the opening two scenes of the first story in the book, which is also the first one I wrote.

Continue reading

Interview with MARIE BRENNAN

BrennanM-AuthorPicWelcome back to CR! It’s been a little while, so let’s start with an introduction for new readers: Who is Marie Brennan?

Well, at one point I wound up calling myself “an anthropological compost heap from which stories sprout,” which might be as good a description of my writing as any. I’m a fantasy novelist and short story writer (and occasional game writer, too), with an academic background in anthropology, archaeology, and folklore, which leaves its fingerprints all over my work.

Your new novel, Driftwood, will be published soon by Tachyon. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The tagline is “where worlds go to die,” but that sounds a little grim, doesn’t it? Driftwood is a setting composed of the fragments of broken worlds, brought together by some unknown force. Driftwood the novel is a fix-up of short stories previously written in that setting, with a new novelette and a frame story to link all the pieces together. If you feel like there might be a thematic connection between the setting and the form of the novel, well, you’re not wrong! Continue reading

Interview with DJANGO WEXLER

WexlerD-AuthorPicWelcome back to Civilian Reader! It’s been a little while, so for newcomers let’s start with an introduction: Who is Django Wexler?

Hi! I’m Django Wexler. I’m currently an author of fantasy series of various kinds — military, middle-grade, and young adult. Before that I was a software engineer and worked on AI research and programming languages. I’m very into games of all sorts (tabletop, board games, wargames, video games, etc) and watch a fair bit of anime. I read a lot, anything SFF on the fiction side and history, economics, and science on the non-fiction side. I’m a big fan of cats.

Your next novel, Ashes of the Sun, is the start of a new series and is due to be published by Orbit. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Ashes is an epic fantasy set in a post-fantasy-apocalypse — the aftermath of the collapse of a powerful magical civilization, with survivors living amidst the ruins. It’s about two siblings named Gyre and Maya; at a young age Maya is identified as having the potential to be a powerful wielder of magic and taken to be trained with the Twilight Order. A decade later, their paths cross again. Maya has grown into a committed believer in the Order’s mission of defending civilization, while her brother Gyre has sworn revenge on the callous authority that destroyed their family. Continue reading

Interview with WAYNE SANTOS

SantosW-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Wayne Santos?

The simplest, one-line answer is “Canadian-Filipino Gen-X Geek.” That sums up everything in a nutshell. I’m a second-generation Filipino that grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, which some refer to as “Texas North.” I’m a child of the 80s, so I was there when Neuromancer made its debut, everyone was flipping out over Blade Runner, and I did watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the theatre. I also did time rolling four, six, ten, and 20-sided dice in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games, and, yes, we did it in the basement.

But I also graduated out of university and then spent the next 13 years or so living and working in Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore. That was an eye-opener, since I looked Southeast Asian, but had a North American accent, and sensibility, so it was confusing for everybody. It was a weird feeling to grow up looking like a minority, but not feeling like one, because I shared the same culture as everyone else. Then move to another country and switch to not looking like a minority, but feeling like one, because I culturally did not belong in this world, but no one knew it as long as I kept my mouth shut. Continue reading

Quick Review: RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

ClarkPD-RingShoutA dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

The KKK are monsters. But what if, in addition to the human kind of monsters, they were also actual otherworldly demons? P. Djèlí Clark examines just such a situation, in this engaging and twisted novella. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE OLD GUARD (Netflix)

As far as I can tell, this movie has not been getting a lot of attention. I can’t remember when I first learned of it, but I think it was when I spotted some stills quite some times ago, on Twitter. Aside from a few other people sharing the trailer and stating similar surprise at its low-visibility, Netflix’s upcoming movie The Old Guard seems to be skimming along with minimal attention. This is quite surprising. Continue reading

Interview with DEVIN MADSON

MadsonD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Devin Madson?

Devin Madson is an Australian fantasy author who doesn’t usually talk about herself in the third person, but here we are. I started in self-publishing in 2013, and was picked up by Orbit in 2019 in what has been a strange six to seven years of my career. I live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by alternately cute and deadly Australian animals, I’ve abandoned three university degrees, killed dozens of house plants, and rewatch the same handful of movies over and over again.

Your first novel with Orbit Books, We Ride the Storm, is due to be published tomorrow. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It is part of a four-book series, which will be released on a six-month schedule! We Ride the Storm is the story of an empire built by war being brought down by war, crushed beneath its history of division and inherited hurts. We follow a snarky assassin with a voice in her head she can’t escape, an honourable warrior trying to hold on to his tenets while being forced to fight in a foreign war, and an ambitious princess who wants to rule the empire in her own right whatever the cost. There’s lot of intrigue, tense battles, trippy necromancy, respectful head severing and tea. Continue reading

Interview with K.A. DOORE

DooreKA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is K.A. Doore?

Three gators in a plaid twirly dress. With pockets, of course.

Aside from that – and a ton of moisturizer – I’m a mom, a runner, a reader, a weightlifter, an eLearning designer, a random facts generator, a coffee aficionado, an occasionally comforting voice from the Void, an erstwhile Classicist, a spider wrangler, and – yes, of course – a writer.

I also yell about queer books on Twitter. A lot. God, I love queer books.

The third novel in your Chronicles of Ghadid series, The Unconquered City is due to be published by Tor Books in June. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader? And what can fans of the series expect from the new novel?

The Chronicles of Ghadid are three books of non-stop queer assassins saving the day. It begins with quiet and bookish Amastan trying to solve a hometown murder and ends with an invasion of a country and the end of the world (as we know it). Continue reading

Quick Review: ACADEMIC EXERCISES by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-AcademicExercisesA superb collection of short fiction by one of the masters of the form

Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K. J. Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-winner, “Let Maps to Others”. The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of imaginative fiction.

The collection opens with the World Fantasy Award-winning “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” a story of music and murder set against a complex mentor/pupil relationship, and closes with the superb novella “Blue and Gold,” which features what may be the most beguiling opening lines in recent memory. In between, Parker has assembled a treasure house of narrative pleasures. In “A Rich, Full Week,” an itinerant “wizard” undergoes a transformative encounter with a member of the “restless dead.” “Purple and Black,” the longest story in the book, is an epistolary tale about a man who inherits the most hazardous position imaginable: Emperor. “Amor Vincit Omnia” recounts a confrontation with a mass murderer who may have mastered an impossible form of magic.

Rounding out the volume — and enriching it enormously — are three fascinating and illuminating essays that bear direct relevance to Parker’s unique brand of fiction: “On Sieges,” “Cutting Edge Technology,” and “Rich Men’s Skins.”

Taken singly, each of these thirteen pieces is a lovingly crafted gem. Together, they constitute a major and enduring achievement. Rich, varied, and constantly absorbing, Academic Exercises is, without a doubt, the fantasy collection of the year.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of K. J. Parker’s novellas and short stories. The novellas he’s published with Tor.com and Subterranean Press routinely are among my favourite reads of any given year. Academic Exercises is the author’s first big collection of shorter fiction, and it’s a fantastic one at that. I really enjoyed this, and it further cemented my opinion of Parker as one of the best authors of short fiction. Continue reading

Review: THE SEVENTH PERFECTION by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

PolanskyD-SeventhPerfectionAn excellent new mystery novella about memory

When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.

To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Polansky’s writing ever since his debut, The Straight Razor Cure, was published in the UK. The Seventh Perfection is his second novella for Tor.com (following the superb The Builders), and I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. Continue reading