April 2015

Stuart Flynn interviewed me on his blog! It’s my first interview.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week we look at THE BIG CITY

There has to be somewhere in Fantasyland where everyone comes together. All roads lead to Rome after all. A place where traders prosper, politicians scheme, and criminals thrive.

The undisputed king of cities: Ankh-Morpok. It’s the biggest city on Discworld and houses a lot of interesting characters from the Patrician to Carrot Ironfoundersson, and the Librarian. The river Ankh is known for its smell and thick consistency; “Anything that’s passed through so many kidneys has to be very pure indeed.”

Middle-Earth has several great cities. Minas Tirith is perhaps the most memorable of them from the movies but I have a soft spot for Bree, too, because many adventures began or ended in there in the table-top roleplaying games where I played.

New York City has been the setting of many movies both realistic and not, as well as books and comics. I’m most fond of the Big Apple version which contains the Avengers Mansion, the Baxter Building, and the Hellfire Club.

London is another very popular place to set both books and movies. My favorite versions are the ones seen in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and in Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court series. Both have a large underground city; in Neverwhere it’s populated by the homeless and in Brennan’s books by the fae.

Gotham City is another very striking place, especially in the Tim Burton movies.

Lankhmar by Fitz Leiber is another great city where Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser find adventure (although sometimes they’re fleeing from the city). Its officials seem to be very corrupt and it has a thriving population of thieves and other criminals.

Menzoberranzan is the great underground city of black elves in the Forgotten Realms setting. It’s ruled by the cruel priestesses of the Spider Queen Lolth.

Seattle from Cherie Priest’s steampunk world. Seattle itself is walled off from the outskirts where the regular people live because the city is filled with the undead and the undesirable people.

A collection of six science fiction novellas.

Format: Audio
Running time: 8 hours, 56 minutes
Narrators: Nicola Barber and Tom Dheere

Boojum, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette was published also in Fast Ships, Black Sails pirate collection. Lavinia Whately is a living starship, but not as pacifist as Moya from Farscape; Lavinia eats other ships. Black Alice is a lowly engineer among the pirate crew but she loves her ship and when she thinks that a salvaged cargo could be a danger to the ship, she goes to the captain.

Shiva in Shadow
by Nancy Kress: This story takes place in a deep space exploration ship the Kepler which has just three people; the Nurturer Captain Tirzah and two scientists Kane and Ajit. Tirzah’s duty is to keep the scientists focused on their work and working together. In order to do that, she has to constantly monitor them and she also has sex with both. They are exploring a black hole and to get data, the ship launchs a probe which will send the data back to the Kepler. The probe has uploads of Tirzah, Kane, and Ajit. The story alternates between the crew aboard the ship and the probe.

The Tomb Wife
, by Gwyneth Jones takes place in an interstellar freighter. The characters are humans except for one humanoid alien who tells them the story of the Tomb Wives. Despite the name, these are the spouses (of any gender) of a dead spouse. They have stayed in the tomb and even married the tomb, supposedly of their own free will. The ship is carrying artifacts and one of them is such a tomb. Nobody knows if the Tomb Wife there is still alive. One of the crew becomes obsessed with the tomb.

The Political Officer by Charles Coleman Finlay is set in a claustrophobic environment very much reminiscent of the “Hunt for Red October”. Max is the political officer on a starship whose crew loath him but have to obey him. He knows that someone on the ship is a double agent and has to find out who.

The Remoras by Robert Reed takes place on a very old, alien starship whom humans now use. It was found drifting and nobody knows who built it or why. It’s huge, more a city than a ship. The story is set in the far future where the wealthier humans are almost immortal. They’ve paid a lot so that they can travel for centuries in that ship, called just The Ship. However, in addition to passengers, the Ship also needs crew. The most alien of the crew are the Remoras who take care of the hull.

Quee Lee is a passenger but one day a Remora comes to meet her. The Remora claims that Quee Lee’s husband owes money and she promises to speak to him about it. Quee Lee can’t stop thinking about the Remora and his strange culture, and wants to know more.

Mayflower II by Stephen Baxter is a story about a slower than light generation ship. Rusel lives in Port Sol which isn’t part of the Coalition, a vast nation where things like families aren’t allowed. Five Pharaohs live there as well. They are five humans who have gotten immortality through medical means because they help an alien race. Now, the Coalition is going to wipe out Port Sol because of the Pharaohs. Port Sol has managed to build five large spaceships but each one can carry only one thousand crew. Port Sol has 50 000 inhabitants. The lucky 5 000 were selected among the most gifted and skilled adults. Rusel finds out that he gets to go, too, but has to leave behind his girlfriend who is too young and yet unskilled to get aboard.

He thinks that he has 19 days to spend with her. But then, the ships have to leave the next morning because the Coalition ships as close and in order to get to ship Rusel has to come face to face with the people he’s abandoning. They will haunt him.

Once the ship has lifted off, it becomes clear that the culture inside will have to adapt drastically to the limited living space. Ironic, considering that one of the reasons they left in the first place was to preserve their culture. The story progresses in large jumps through time, to show how the crew’s culture evolves. Personally, I thought the leaders chose a completely wrong tactic with the crew.

I found the Tomb Wife somewhat confusing but enjoyed the rest, especially Boojum and Shiva in Shadow. These stories show a nice range of starship used for different jobs, from piracy to exploration. Most of them have large crews but the Kepler has just one, the captain. All of the crew are dependent on each other and the ship in order to survive.

Collects Excalibur #12-20

Writer: Chris Claremont, Michael Higgins
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Dennis Jensen, Dan Adkins, Rick Leonardi, Ron Lim, Ron Rubenstein

Excalibur’s interdimensional travel has begun! Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Phoenix, Captain Britain, Meggan, Lockheed, Widget, and Professor Alistare Stuart are thrown from one dimension to another. Sometimes their powers work, sometimes they don’t.

First the train they’re traveling in sets down in a magical version of Britain where fairies live in the forests and the Queen’s guard has giants. And the Queen and the Queen Mother are accomplished sorcerers. The story isn’t terribly original but has some great gags, like the opening sequence where a knight errant sees a worried Lockheed next to unconscious Kitty and draws the wrong conclusions.

In the third issue, number 14, things get even sillier when the team arrives to Earth where apparently every incarnation of every super hero and villain exists at the same time. Meanwhile, back on Earth Courtney Ross sends Nigel Frobisher, the unfortunate former banker, to hire Technet to free Brian’s (and Psylocke’s) older brother James from captivity. His jailor is Doctor Crocodile.

In the next issue, the team hops from one dimension to another while Technet frees James. However, it turns out that James was a very bad man and now he has pretty incredible powers, to boot. He wipes the floor with Technet singlehandedly. In the first Excalibur special, Technet captured Kitty, Rachel, and Meggan so Jamie is worrisomely powerful. During the fight Excalibur hops from dimension to dimension wearing pretty silly outfits.

The next two issues, 16 and 17, are perhaps my favorites in this long-running series with Kurt as the swashbuckling hero. This is clearly a homage to Barsoom (and Claremont wrote Barsoom comics for a while so he knows the source very well) with swordfights, men and women in very small amount of clothing, and four-armed aliens. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, the team’s powers don’t work in this dimension so they have to rely more on their wits and skills. At the end, Meggan shows herself to be very powerful indeed.

Next, the Jamie Braddock plotline gets into higher gear and Excalibur arrive into a world which seems to be obsessed with car racing and the world’s best racer is Jamie Braddock. Of course, the Excalibur have to fight him in the end. Guest starring Dirty Pair (Lovely Angels from manga). These have some great scenes, such as Kitty in the wheel of a racing car Widget has made but on the whole, this was starting to get to bit too silly even for me. At the end of the issue, Kitty is separated from the rest of the team; she’s stranded into their home reality.

The final issue is one-shot set before the Cross-Time Caper started. Demon Druid causes problems for our team. Unfortunately, this is a complete fill-in with Brian acting like an ass and Meggan crying over him on Kurt’s shoulder.

Issue 18 starts a galore of guest artists which lasts until issue 23. Unfortunately, they all have very different styles from Davis so the difference is jarring. Claremont makes fun of this in issue 18 where Kitty says that they look different.

Claremont also establishes a connection between Rachel and Meggan which was started actually back in their New York adventure. Meggan is a shape shifter and she also tends to shift her shape to mimic anyone close to her. This is very unfortunate in the case of Phoenix where Meggan goes so far that she makes herself look like Rachel and changes Rachel into Meggan. That’s why they crash into the car racing world. However, it also gives the team a chance to deal with super powered Jamie. We also get to know that when Meggan changes her shape to another super person, she gets the powers, too!

I enjoyed this collection, too.

I had a blast! Thanks very much to the organizers and everyone who participated!

End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 10 was midnight here, so I went to sleep. I might have held on until 2 or 3am but from experience I know that I would have been too tired the next day to do anything.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Well, I recommend reading stuff that interests you most or perhaps trying out a genre or book that you’re curious about but haven’t tried before. Or try short stories.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I was too busy reading to actually participate much but as far as I know, everything worked well.

How many books did you read?

I finished only one short story collection. I’m a slow reader so I expected that from previous years. However, I read a significant chunk from 2 other books and finished 2 comic book collections.

What were the names of the books you read?
Dark Side of the Sun, (a Farscape novel) around 100 pages
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia, around 50 pages
Starship Vectors edited by Stephen Baxter, the three last short stories
Excalibur Classic volumes 3 and 4

Which book did you enjoy most?
The Excalibur comics. They’re an old favorite so it was great to reread them.

Which did you enjoy least?
None. All were interesting and I’m going to finish them.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
No I wasn’t.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
If I have the time, I’d be happy to participate again. Reader, most likely.

I’m back to reading and I’m answering a mini-challenge:
The challenge for the hour is to share some of your best from your reading year and why. The idea is to pick at least 3 of the categories below and share your favorites and why. Hopefully, everyone will discover a new author..book…or maybe even genre.

I went a bit overboard: 🙂

Best Romance Book of Your Reading Year
Lois McMaster Bujold: A Civil Campaing
Miles Vorkosigan has finally met his lady love.

Best Mystery Book of Your Reading Year
Greenwood: Trick or Treat
I love Greenwood’s characters

Best Sci-Fi Book of Your Reading Year
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
A cerebral SF book.

Best Fantasy Book of Your Reading Year
Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
Commander Vimes is transported back in time and he has to whip into shape another City Guard.

Best Setting of Your Reading Year
The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffiths
A steampunk world with very dangerous vampires.

Best Indie Author of Your Reading Year
MeiLin Miranda: The Machine God
Quite different storyline and interesting setting and characters.

Things are going pretty good. I’m nearly finished with Starship Vectors, I’ve read over 50 pages of Dark Side of the Sun, and from Ekaterin Sedia’s book, and finished Excalibur Classic vol 3. In fact, I’ve been so busy reading that I haven’t had time to take part in any mini-challenges.

So, I’m joining the Book Spine Poetry challenge. Here’s my entry:


The Scent of Shadows
In the Night Garden
A Fury Scorned.

It’s past midnight here, so I’m going to sleep. Happy reading for others!

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