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Happy birthday, Bjork!

Today is Bjork’s 49th birthday. I’ve followed her amazing musical career since I was but a wee lad. She’s weird, beautiful, and talented. A perfect trio. Happy birthday!

I dedicate this song to Bjork:

So now let’s travel Bjork’s career trajectory.

It started with this bit of weirdness. Best (read: worst) white man rapping in history. “I really don’t like lobster!”:

Then The Sugarcubes hit mainstream with this rocking single.

Bjork decided she’d had enough of Icelandic white man rapping and ventured into a solo career that was launched with a giant angry teddy bear.

She then became a movie star in one of the most depressing films I’ve ever seen, Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (Bjork is amazing in it, of course).

And finally, she ventured into more refined experimental work. A lot of it seems to share similarity to Radiohead’s sound of the past decade.

Thank you for all the wonderful music, Björk Guðmundsdóttir!

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Review of The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

thedarkdefilesThe Dark Defiles is the third and final book of Richard K. Morgan’s Land Fit for Heroes series. It’s a rather epic, challenging, and satisfying conclusion to a strong grimdark fantasy tale.

The Land Fit for Heroes saga is a strange bird. It’s a broad stroke of science and sorcery. We have the Kiriath, an ‘immortal’ race of advanced beings that have departed the earth, leaving behind advanced machinery and weaponry. There’s the Dwenda, a beautiful race of powerful yet flawed human-like creatures. We have the Dark Court, a group of old and mysterious gods that like to meddle in the affairs of the world. Finally, we have humans. As usual, we’re the pawns of greater design.

We follow the paths of three heroes: Ringil Eskiath (a gay war hero), Egar the Dragonbane (a berserker warrior), and Archeth “Archidi” Indamaninarmal (the sole Kiriath left on the planet, lesbian).

I mention the sexuality of Ringil and Archidi because both characters are shaped somewhat by society’s reaction to their sexual choices.

Oh, and spoilers below the cut (but not a great many)!

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Too Many Cooks

The great thing about something as meta and post-modern as Too Many Cooks is its unbridled originality…er, wait a minute…

This was a student film by Erica Rupp in 2010. Lots of similar oddities and themes in Door’s Always Open as there are in Too Many Cooks.

I suspect this is nothing more than a coincidence. As Erica Rupp said about Too Many Cooks: “Eh idea’s[sic] are in the air man. I’m happy they’re doing awesome stuff. Their video was bomb.”

I like that phrase: Ideas are in the air, man!

Erica totally needs to do a director’s cut of her film to add Smarf.

smarf

2014 Kentucky Book Fair

Kentucky, land of hillbillies and rednecks, has one of the premiere book fairs in the country. Every year, the Kentucky Book Fair is held in late autumn at the convention center in Frankfort, KY. This year is extra special, because I will be in attendance signing my books!

Come see me and roughly 200 other Kentucky authors. We got books we want to sell you!

WHAT: 33rd Annual Kentucky Book Fair

WHEN: November 15th, 2014, 9am-4:30pm

WHERE: Frankfort Convention Center, Frankfort, KY

WHY: Author/Editor/Publisher Jason Sizemore will be in attendance signing copies of his collection IRREDEEMABLE, his anthology APPALACHIAN UNDEAD, and a new anthology that contains his short story “God Needs Not the Future” (STREETS OF SHADOWS).

MORE INFORMATION: http://kybookfair.blogspot.com/2014/11/kentucky-book-fair-nov-10-2014.html

While you’re in Frankfort, visit the State Capitol Building. And don’t forget, kids,  you’re allowed to bring your guns into the capitol!

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III by Ben H. Winters

WorldOfTrouble_FinalWorld of Trouble is the last book of Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy. These three books should go into the canon of recommended apocalyptic novels due to their emotional depth and way Winters shows the rapid decline of society and his protagonist, Detective Hank Palace.

I’ve written about the first two books in the series here. World of Trouble isn’t a standalone, so being familiar with the first two entries are a must.

The events in World of Trouble begin one week before Maia is due to hit (and destroy) Earth. Hank has found safety and friends in a mountain hideaway with some fellow law enforcement officers. But Hank is unable to shake two intertwined mysteries from his mind: what has happened to his sister Nico and the possibility of a clandestine government plan to redirect Maia with a nuclear explosion.

He leaves the hideaway with the mysterious but useful Cortez (a thief with many survivalist skills) and embarks to Rotary, Ohio, the supposed meeting place of Nico’s group.

Naturally, something has happened at Rotary, and Hank is racing against time to figure out the mystery. He grows angry at the minutes wasted away while others make decisions. While the resolution of the mystery was no great surprise, I was surprised by the complete despair and darkness that Winters dives into as he concludes his trilogy. It felt appropriate and the right way to go.

Winters does a fantastic job using Hank’s desperation as a parallel to the crumbling of society. As the asteroid approaches, he comes to believe that perhaps Nico and her group were on to something. But as he digs deeper and discovers the truth, he finds that it was all false hope and that it was always out of his hands, and perhaps life would have meant more at the end had he continued to live in ignorant bliss.

The AVClub states it best: But the mysteries are just a spine for a larger agenda: exploring Henry’s psychology, and the ways he represents human endeavor, which can all look empty in the face of death. 

Winters throws some interesting philosophical questions against the wall in his trilogy. He also provides a chilling assessment regarding how society would react to an impending cataclysmic event.

The Last Policeman trilogy is a great series. I encourage everyone to check it out.

 

Django Unchained

Django-Unchained-wallpapers-1920x1200-2

I’m a huge Quentin Tarantino fanboy. Have been since Reservoir Dogs, and I can say with an honest heart that I’ve enjoyed everything he’s directed. Even his shaky 4 Rooms bit. Since Netflix made Django Unchained available on their streaming service, I finally got a chance to catch the auteur’s latest greatest.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Tarantino’s antebellum revenge flick. Too many characters use the N-word! The violence is over the top! Historical inaccuracies! The plot is contrived!

To those expressing one or more of those complaints, I say ‘Get over yourself.’

(SPOILERS GALORE)

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SF/F/Horror Short Fiction Reviewers

I was pleased to see that Tor.com has picked up Amal El-Mohtar’s new short fiction review series “Rich and Strange.” The world needs more quality short fiction reviewers like Amal bringing attention to the good stuff.

Of course, Apex Magazine has been running Charlotte Ashley’s short review series Clavis Aurea for 6+ months by this point. I hope you’ve been checking it out.

Below is a list of the websites/bloggers that I know are reviewing short fiction (zines, in particular).

Short Fiction Reviewers:

Clavis Aurea: Apex Magazine – Charlotte Ashley

Rich and Strange: Tor.com – Amal El-Mohtar

Locus Online – Lois Tilton

Tangent Online

Io9.com - K. Tempest Bradford

Short Fiction Spotlight: Tor.com – Brit Mandelo and Niall Alexander

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination: Gillian Daniels

Short Fiction Snapshot: Strange Horizons

I feel like I’m missing a couple. Anybody know?

Kathleen Hale stalks a very bad reviewer

Trolls! Trolls! Trolls!

Trolls! Trolls! Trolls!

Perhaps I’m being too easy on Kathleen Hale in the lede. If you haven’t already, then read Ms. Hale’s piece “Am I Being Catfished: An author confronts her number one online critic.” I’ll go read some Apex Magazine slush until you finish.

Back? Yes?

So, wow, that’s some crazy stuff amiright? Kathleen Hale did more than ‘confront’ her online critic. This is a scary, flat-out terrifying instance of stalking, harassment, and physical & mental confrontation by an author toward someone critical of her work. Good grief.

I did a quick tour of Hale’s personal website and blog. She has a cute introductory video about her and the new novel. Her blog is fairly clever and harmless. She seems like a nice enough person. She seems like someone you can give the benefit of a doubt to.

And some might say that Blythe (the book reviewer Hale stalked) earned the trouble that befell her. She is a misbehaving book reviewer (at least it seems that way in her treatment of Hale’s novel).  The review supposedly references activities that do not occur in Hale’s novel, and it appears that the negative review was written because Hale handled certain subjects in a way that did not please the reviewer.

And everybody gets that writing is a deeply personal, intimate experience for many authors.

But…

…stalking and harassment of anybody isn’t cool. EVER NEVER EVER.

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Warren Ellis isn’t paying attention.

Apex Magazine Issue 66

Apex Magazine Issue 66

I’m a fan of Warren Ellis: his comics, his novels, his blogging. The guy is a genre entertainment machine. But he frustrates me with his misunderstanding of the state of SF/F/Horror short fiction zines.

Here he is ruminating about the failed rebirth of NEW WORLDS:

“NEW WORLDS was never a nostalgic enterprise. But, perhaps, publishing a speculative fiction magazine is. I had drinks with an editor in publishing last night who remains apoplectic that sf magazines stubbornly refuse to meet the future, change tack, publicise or advertise. We laughed about still not knowing how many copies INTERZONE sells per issue, and how few people seem to know it’s still going.”

There is a booming industry of SF zines that have done just that. They as a whole have met the future, have changed tack, have publicized, and have advertised. Obviously, I feel that Apex Magazine has done a fine job navigating the digital wave and the onset of Kindle madness. We’re not the only ones. Lightspeed Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and Daily Science Fiction are others, to name a few. All these zines have been around for years and consistently publish high quality, award-winning SF/F short fiction. And for every failed experiment like New Worlds, there are new pro zines like Uncanny Magazine and Buzzy Mag.

I presume that Warren Ellis is lamenting that none of the zines have the brand recognition, importance, and reach that the magazines of yore held. If so, I agree, that is lamentable. But this has been true for decades and is not a recent phenomenon. And I would argue that thanks to the eBook age, short fiction holds more relevancy now than it has in many years. The number of high quality eZines (and the continued existence of Asimov’s/Analog/F&SF/Interzone) I think bears out my assertion.

Apex Magazine had 17,895 visitors during the month of September. Our top short story has been read almost 24,000 times (and gets approximately 1000 new reads a month…and the story is always available, and will accumulate reads). Site traffic has increased 50% from last year. Yes, these numbers are a far cry from the grand old days, but they’re nothing to scoff at. And I would guess that Clarkesworld and Tor.com (and likely others) has traffic double (at least) what Apex has.

These numbers weren’t accomplished by sitting on our collective butts doing nothing (here I’m speaking for all the publishers/editors of the zines mentioned earlier). We’ve met the future. We are the future.

Jason Sanford says this about contemporary zines…

But the successful magazines of our genre — wow, they are of an entirely different level of creation. Successful genre magazines don’t merely publish stories. Instead, they cultivate authors and readers. They build movements and styles. They stand astride the genre and chart our genre into new and unpredictable directions.

So, to Mr. Ellis, I proffer this link in the humblest of fashion: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/apex-magazine-all/products/apex-magazine-subscription

Plug into the future that you’re missing, Mr. Ellis! If Apex doesn’t suit your tastes, there are lots of other options to try!

Further Reading:

Warren Ellis’s original post about New World’s demise.

Tempest Bledsoe briefly discussing Warren Ellis’s post.

Jason Sanford adds some cogent thoughts.