Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Couple'a Recommendations

Hey all! I just got back from ArmadilloCon, and boy are my arms tired. Seriously, they're pretty tired. Anyway, I had a great time at the writer's workshop and convention proper, met a lot of cool people and attended a lot of cool panels. I'll have a writeup for that soon.

Today, though, I wanted to spread the love and highlight some cool books that you can totally buy RIGHT NOW LIKE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  As a literary hipster, I've read both of these in early-draft form, and it's amazing both to see them go from conception to perfection, and to see them shoved out in the wider world, available for everyone to enjoy.

But don't take my word for it! Uh, actually ... do take my word for it, I guess.



First up is Grey Matters, a short story anthology from A.C. Blackhall. I've highlighted his work on this blog before, and I continue to love it. This anthology gets you a MASSIVE chunk of his stories in one easy-to-digest package. Seriously, it's sort of ridiculous how many stories are in here -- 14 by my count, which is substantially more than you get from most single-author collections.

There are a lot of great tales in here, but my favorite is probably Human Seagulls. It's hard to go into too much detail, as the ending revolves around one of those perfect twists, the kind that you don't see coming but you absolutely should have because it's not at all surprising in retrospect. The high-level concept, though, is a world where nanomachines keep everyone (moderately) healthy, but the economy itself is pretty much in shambles. Anyone who isn't working on nanotechnology is out of a job, leading to the question of whether simply having our basic biological needs met is enough for a fulfilling life. It's got some great parallels with our modern world, which is a theme you'll notice in pretty much all of Blackhall's SF-tinged work.

Oh, and, psst. A little birdie told me that it's free on July 30th and a couple of days afterward. So grab it while it's hot! It's available on Kindle, and while you're at it, check out Blackhall's Amazon bio, which is probably the best thing I've ever read. Just an excerpt:

He used those talents to join a traveling circus, which is where most of his science fiction stories originate. He became so famous under the name "The Pale Pouncer" that his life was in constant danger from fanatical fans. After an assassination attempt involving three dwarves disguised as the tallest man in the world, he was forced to leave his three wives and two mistresses behind in Munich and run away to America.

Moving right along, we've got the fabulous debut novel from friend-of-the-blog Arianne 'Tex' Thompson. One Night in Sixes is a fantasy-western (western-fantasy?) that draws some comparisons to The Dark Tower, but mainly because that's the only western-fantasy (fantasy-western?) anyone can think of. It's a remarkably original celebration and condemnation of American history, which is not something you hear said about a fantasy novel all that often.

I got to hear Tex talk about this some at ArmadilloCon. A lot of the audience seemed to be commenting about pre-Columbian history, which isn't so much what this is about, but native/invader interactions are absolutely at the heart of this novel (funny enough, sort of on topic for the work-in-progress I'm currently hacking at, though with a vastly different milieu).

The narrative revolves around Sil, a purebred lord's son and right little shit, and Elim, a loyal half-breed who's scorned by just about everyone except those who want him to lift something heavy. It sort of reminds me of Of Mice and Men, if Lenny and George hated each other, and Lenny's mental disability was a false perception. The two get into some shit when they cross over into native land still reeling from war. Oh, and there are fishmen. Men who are fish.

You can and should grab One Night in Sixes from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Tex also has a fantastic blog and Twitter (I even hear tell she's runnin' a contest right now), and if you can check out the novel's prologue right here. You can also check out a longer dissection of the novel's themes on John Scalzi's blog, as Tex has written up a Big Idea for you to peruse.

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