Cover art – “Little Dead Red and Other Stories” by Mercedes Murdock Yardley

littledead_fbwebMarcela Bolivar’s amazing artworks are popping more and more on book covers and it is only for the best, after all she is a tremendously talented artist and with imagination aplenty. Take only the last year or so and I can recall off the top of my head the covers of Eric Schaller’s “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air”, Sunny Moraine’s “Singing With All My Skin and Bone”, Kristi DeMeester’s “Beneath” or the May 2017 issue of Apex Magazine. There is another coming in the near future, this one for Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s collection of tales, “Little Dead Read and Other Stories”, brought in limited edition by Vault Books. Mercedes M. Yardley’s “Little Dead Red” is one of the best stories I’ve ever read, one of my all-time favorites. I had the chance to read the story when it was published in the “Grimm Mistresses” anthology and as I said at the time it really shook my ground.

Marie’s daughter, Aleta, goes to visit her grandmother at the hospital but on her way there she meets a terrifying end. Marie tries to exact revenge on the creature responsible for the terrible deed. “Little Dead Red” is a tremendous opener for this little anthology. Mercedes M. Yardley spins a dark story, the darker you can find, to bone chilling precision. All the set of emotions Marie experience are sent in an unsettling correspondence across to the reader, her suffering, desperation, loss, longing, and unrelenting determination to find vengeance are brought to palpable extent, whirled with great talent by Mercedes M. Yardley through haunting scenes. There is a lushness of language within this story, but its beauty has on the other side of its coin an oppressing atmosphere, an event that breathes so much dread. The terrible event at the core of the plot is not the only one contributing to the very dark setting of Mercedes M. Yardley’s story, because unlike the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, where this tale has its roots, here the wolf is not the only dangerous creature living in the forest and not as easily recognizable, hiding not among the trees of the forest but blending in the city landscape. “Little Dead Red” is a harrowing, deeply emotional story, one that shook my ground and chased away my sleep long into the night. It is also one of the very best I ever read.

And now I find Marcela Bolivar’s stunning artwork the perfect companion to Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s “Little Dead Red”. As a matter of fact, the artwork and the story are so well matched that I cannot shake their connection from my mind, they’ll always be linked together for me whenever I’ll set my eyes on one or the other. Of course, there is more to this collection published by Vault Books, more stories (two of them previously unpublished) and essays by Mercedes M. Yardley and additional interior illustrations by Marcela Bolivar that make this gorgeous book extremely tempting for me, although the financial effort has to be taken into consideration. But a potential strain on the budget is to be expected since Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s “Little Dead Red and Other Stories” is only released in two editions, the numbered edition, limited to up to 500 copies and with a price of 40$, and the lettered edition, limited to up to 52 copies and with a price of 125$. I’m not sure if this collection ends up on my bookshelves eventually, but for certain I would be very happy to see a copy of Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s “Little Dead Red and Other Stories”, beautifully adorned by Marcela Bolivar’s artwork, in my personal library.

You can find all the details regarding the 2 editions of the book, as well as a pre-order link, on Vault Books website.

Title spotlight – “Bearly a Lady” by Cassandra Khaw

Bearly-coverCassandra Khaw is one of the most exciting emerging talents of speculative fiction. And she has plenty of published works to prove this statement, short stories like “In the Rustle of Pages” (Shimmer 25), “The Games That We Play” (Clockwork Phoenix 5), “Breathe” (Clarkesworld 116) or “And in Our Daughters We Find a Voice” (The Dark Magazine, November 2016), just to name a few that caught my eye, and the novellas “Hammers on Bone” (Tor.com Publishing) and “Food of the Gods” (Abaddon Books), collecting the two Rupert Wong adventures “Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef” and “Rupert Wong and the End of the Earth”, make a strong testimony of Cassandra Khaw’s talent. For a fan of her writing, as I have become with each new work I read, there is nothing more delightful than the prospect of submerging in more such stories. The news could not be better in this case, Cassandra Khaw will publish three more of her tales this summer, “A Song for Quiet” in August, a story that sees a return to the world of “Hammers on Bone”, “These Deathless Bones”, a novella due to be released in July on Tor.com, and “Bearly a Lady”, also in July from Book Smugglers Publishing. The Book Smugglers took a brave step from blogging into publishing and so far their efforts have been admirable and commending. Their valiant attempt of publishing original and bright voices of speculative fiction will include Cassandra Khaw’s too. “Bearly a Lady” is a rom-com urban fantasy that is also “the first foray of the author into lighter, fluffier fair”. Now, not so long ago there was nothing that could send me rushing in the opposite direction than hearing rom-com. If I am completely honest it still does, but now and again I fight the urge of running away from it because dismissing it entirely will not help me enrich my reading, or viewing, experience. And since “Bearly a Lady” is in the hands of Cassandra Khaw I have a small measure of guarantee that I won’t be disappointed by venturing in this genre again. The novella will be available starting from July 18th.

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it).

The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month.

Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to?

Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague.

What’s a werebear to do?

Cover art – “Godsgrave” by Jay Kristoff (UK/AUS edition)

godsgrave-uk1The wait is over! After two months ago I’ve admired the cover artwork for the US edition of Jay Kristoff’s “Godsgrave” now I am able to bask in the beauty of the UK/AUS one, due to be published by Harper Voyager. I already said that the amazing “Nevernight”, the first novel in Jay Kristoff’s series “The Nevernight Chronicles”, benefitted from two wonderful covers and, as it was expected, the same goes for the second novel, “Godsgrave”. Of course, again, I find myself hard pressed to choose between the two editions since my bookshelves are already overcrowded, but I am still thrilled to see this detailed and gorgeous new cover made by Kerby Rosanes. “Godsgrave” will be out on September.

A RUTHLESS YOUNG ASSASSIN CONTINUES HER JOURNEY FOR REVENGE IN THIS NEW EPIC FANTASY FROM NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR JAY KRISTOFF.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

2017 Sir Julius Vogel Awards & Ditmar Awards

smFront-v5Last week, at LexiCon 2017, the 38th New Zealand National Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention, the winners of the 2017 Sir Julius Vogel Awards have been announced.

BEST NOVEL

“Into The Mist” by Lee Murray (Cohesion Press)

BEST YOUTH NOVEL

“Light in My Dark” by Jean Gilbert and William Dresden (Rogue House Publishing)

BEST NOVELLA/NOVELETTE

“The Convergence of Fairy Tales” by Octavia Cade (The Book Smugglers)

BEST SHORT STORY

“Splintr” by A.J. Fitzwater (At the Edge/Paper Road Press)

BEST COLLECTED WORK

“At the Edge” edited by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray (Paper Road Press)

BEST PREOFFESIONAL ARTWORK

Emma Weakley for the cover artwork of “At the Edge” (Paper Road Press)

BEST PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION/PUBLICATION

“That Kind of Planet” by Emma Weakley (Random Static)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

“This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy” – Andrew Beszant and Christian Nicholson (Little Hero Productions)

BEST FAN PRODUCTION/PUBLICATION

Summer Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror (Enterprise Entertainment)

BEST FAN WRITING

Octavia Cade for “Food and Horror” column series (The Book Smugglers)

BEST FAN ARTIST

Keith Smith for contributions to Novazine

BEST NEW TALENT

Eileen Mueller

SERVICES TO SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY AND HORROR

Lee Murray

SERVICES TO FANDOM

Lynelle Howell

Congratulations to all the winners!

 

***

continuum-13-logo-copyYestarday, at Continuum 13, the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, the winners of 2017 Ditmar Awards have been announced.

BEST NOVEL

“The Grief Hole” by Kaaron Warren (IFWG Publishing)

BEST NOVELLA/NOVELETTE

“Did We Break the End of the World?” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Defying Doomsday/Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST SHORT STORY

“No Fat Chicks” by Cat Sparks (In Your Face/FableCroft Publishing)

BEST COLLECTED WORK (tie)

“Defying Doomsday” edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench (Twelfth Planet Press)

“Dreaming in the Dark” edited by Jack Dann (PS Publishing)

BEST ARTWORK

Shauna O’Meara for the illustration of Lackington’s 12

BEST FAN PUBLICATION IN ANY MEDIUM

2016 Australian SF Snapshot – Greg Chapman, Tehani Croft, Tsana Dolichva, Marisol Dunham, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Stephanie Gunn, Ju Landéesse, David McDonald, Belle McQuattie, Matthew Morrison, Alex Pierce, Rivqa Rafael, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs and Matthew Summers

BEST FAN WRITER

Foz Meadows for body of work

BEST FAN ARTIST

(No award in category — the only nominee, Kathleen Jennings, withdrew.)

BEST NEW TALENT

Marlee Jane Ward

WILLIAM ATHELING JR AWARD FOR CRITICISM OR REVIEW

Kate Forsyth for “The Rebirth of Rapunzel: a mythic biography of the maiden in the tower” (FableCroft Publishing)

A. BERTRAM CHANDLER AWARD

Bill Wright, who has been in fandom for 59 years

PETER MCNAMARA ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Rose Mitchell

Congratulations to all the winners!

Book offer – “Little Boy Found” by LK Fox

Little Boy FoundBecoming a parent changed my priorities entirely, but also added a new set of fears and terrors haunting me into the nights and sometimes during the day too. My perception of the subjects of parenting and childhood in fiction suffered a transformation as well, I find myself more connected to stories centered or touching on such themes. Nowadays, these stories are also an attempt for me to exorcise these fears, to keep them at bay and let the mind wander less on dark alleys in the middle of the night. The disappearance of a child is such a subject, be it in crime, thriller or horror novels, and soon I’ll definitely work on casting out my dread through “Little Boy Found”, a crime novel by LK Fox due to be released by Quercus Books on July 6th. Now, the major theme of “Little Boy Found” might be very familiar but the book promises to stay away from the beaten path, it advertises unexpected twists. One such surprise, and a very pleasant one indeed, comes early, LK Fox being the pen name of the multiple awarded writer Cristopher Fowler, the author of numerous novels and short stories, the wonderful Bryant and May crime series among them. “Little Boy Found” is available on pre-order now and we have a chance, not sure for how long, to grab an e-copy on promotional price. So, if you fancy a copy of the novel or that this is a deal not to be missed you can pre-order “Little Boy Found” at Amazon US, UK or another of its country websites.

Review – “Elves, Volume 1”

Elves“Elves, Volume 1”

Written by Jean-Luc Istin & Nicolas Jarry

Illustrated by Kyko Duarte & Gianluca Maconi

Colors by Diogo Saïto

Translated by Christina Cox-De Ravel

Published by Insight Comics

Back in 2014 I discovered a series of comic books dedicated to the legendary fantasy race of elves. I came upon it a year later than it began being released by Éditions Soleil, a French comic book publisher, but the main point is that I really loved the concept behind it. The Elves series features stories centered on five different races of elves and each tale is approached from the perspective of five different writers and five different artists, but all sharing the same fantasy world. This series concept was created by Jean-Luc Istin and Nicolas Jarry, who are also two of the writers involved in the project, Istin for the blue elves and Jarry for the sylvan elves, and they are joined by Olivier Péru (writing the white elves stories), Eric Corbeyran (the half-elves) and Mark Hadrien (the dark elves) and the artists Kyko Duarte (the blue elves), Gianluca Maconi (the sylvan elves), Stéphane Bileau (the white elves), Jean-Paul Bordier (the half-elves) and Ma Yi (the dark elves). There are 17 volumes already published and although some of them worked better than others for me, overall the Elves series is one I follow with great pleasure.

Earlier this month Insight Comics published the English edition of the first two volumes, joined together in a single book. Most of the volumes are already available in English, also from Éditions Soleil, but only in electronic format, so Insight Comics brings forth the paperback edition of the Elves series translated into English. I am quite happy to see “Elves, Volume 1” being released in English physical format, because I do believe comic books work better on paper rather than on a screen and I am delighted to see this particular series reaching a wider readership. Unfortunately, my delight is tempered a bit by the edition released by Insight Comics. Like I said, the Elves series follows the concept of 5 races, 5 writers, 5 artists, 1 world, but “Elves, Volume 1” while joining together the first two stories of the series, “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” and “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves”, does not acknowledge the creators of the second one. These are two separate story arcs, but on the cover and the spine of the book appear only the names of the writer Jean-Luc Istin, the artist Kyko Duarte and Diogo Saito (responsible for the colors), the team behind the first story, “The Crystal of the Blue Elves”. The same thing happens in the interior of the volume, at the title page of “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” the names of the writer, artist and colorist are rightfully highlighted, while at the title page of “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves” there is none present. The team behind the second story, Nicolas Jarry (story), Gilanuca Maconi (illustration) and Diogo Saito (colors), is only mentioned at the copyright segment, in a small line on the last page. They do appear also on the Amazon page of the volume, but I believe they deserved more than this and the way the book looks might lead to the belief that they have no contribution at all.

It is said that there are things getting lost in translation, but here something of the contrary happens. Not with the second story, “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves”, where everything looks much the same, but with the first, “The Crystal of the Blue Elves”. There is more text present in this volume than in the original French one. The story is told from the perspective of the main character, Lanawyn, but that isn’t the case in the initial publication. It is not entirely bad, some of the additional thoughts augment a bit more the world-building, the setting is a little richer thanks to them. However, since the story is a mystery at its core some of the additional text might reveal something of the plot unraveling here. And I am not saying it because I already knew the outcome, but because there are hints dropped here and there pointing toward a certain end. I honestly believe that leaving the panels without that extra content, as they are originally, works better for the satisfaction of the reader. And one more small matter, the fantasy world of the Elves comics has a map in the French editions, one that is missing in “Elves, Volume 1”. It is very much a personal issue, cartography being one of my soft spots, but I did find myself a little disappointed to not see it in this edition as well.

I am always thrilled to see a favorite series of fantasy stories, in the classical vein of the genre, from outside the English language being translated and although the presentation made by Insight Comics needs improvement I strongly believe that “Elves, Volume 1” being published in English too is a very good thing.

Here are my thoughts put on paper back in 2014 when I first read “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” and “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves”.

“The Crystal of the Blue Elves”

Written by Jean-Luc Istin

Illustrated by Kyko Duarte

Colors by Diogo Saïto

Returning from a journey the blue elf Lanawyn and her human friend Turin reach the city of Ennlya only to discover that all its inhabitants have been killed. The evidence they uncover points towards the human clan of Yrlanis as responsible for the atrocity. At the same time, in the island city of Elsémur, Vaalann, a young blue elf, appears to be the chosen of whom an old prophecy speaks of, the one who will control the powerful crystal of the blue elves.

Jean-Luc Istin’s “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” is not a groundbreaking story, most of its elements are very familiar. But if this tale doesn’t score points for originality, it still delivers an interesting and entertaining story. Two arcs go in parallel for the most part of the graphic novel, the criminal investigation in the Ennlya’s massacre and Vaalann’s attempt in fulfilling the blue elves’ old prophecy. The alternation between the two makes the intrigue work better, provides good suspense and allows the plot to accumulate enough mystery for the final twist to be effective. Blood runs hot within the story as well, there is plenty of action to be had, both on grander and smaller scales, some tense encounters and presence of mythical creatures that quicken the pace nicely and add something extra to the tale.

The characters are pleasant as well. “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” limited number of pages does not offer much space for the characters to develop properly, but they still manage to be lively to a certain extent. Little elements of their personalities make themselves present and the reader can guess a couple of other aspects regarding the characters from here. They are not what I could call memorable, but there is no regret in spending time in their company either.

The liveliness of the characters gains potency from the drawings of Kyko Duarte as well. His art is wonderful, the personalities and emotions well captured in all the characters, the scenes captivating and the landscapes and locations represented wonderfully. Kyko Duarte’s art complements successfully the story, it intensifies the enjoyment of this little graphic novel and provides some splendid frameworks. The minor details tend to get blurred into a mass within a couple of cadres, but that might be put on perfectionist demands rather than the fault of the artist. The overall result obtained by Kyko Duarte with each frame is nothing but satisfying.

I pursued my fascination with the elves to Jean-Luc Istin and Kyko Duarte’s comic book and I feel no disappointment in doing so. “The Crystal of the Blue Elves” is an epic fantasy that doesn’t defy the standards and does not challenge the reader, but it is a fun and relaxing story.

“The Honor of the Sylvan Elves’

Written by Nicolas Jarry

Illustrated by Gianluca Maconi

Colors by Diogo Saïto

A group of city-states driven only by mercantile intentions seek to seize the rights of customs held by the city of Eysine, but when they refuse to wield under their pressure an army of mercenary orcs hired by the group besieges the citadel. With no allies left to stand by the city of Eysine Llali, the king’s daughter, decides to seek help from the sylvan elves, retired within the forests. Hoping to awaken an ancient alliance between the humans and the sylvan elves Llali meets Yfass, an elven hunter, who leads her to his people.

The reader is thrown in the heart of the story from the first panels, with the entire plot revealed only several pages later and until the full scenario is grasped it takes a series of journeys back and forth in time. Due to this approach and the fact that healthy chunks of dialogue are necessary for the whole plot to be set into place makes the unraveling of the tale a slow process. The stage is occupied mainly by the game of politics, played by the involved parties until the extreme consequence of war is brought upon them. Economic interests, old treaties and internal affairs are all important pieces of this assembly. Assassins, magic and a couple of twists and turns are served on the side, adornments making the story more interesting.

However, as it was the case with the first volume of the Elves series the limited space accessible for these comic books turns “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves” into a story without depth. The mechanics behind the plot are restricted in order to be contained within the pages of the present volume. Even the small elements used in the support of the tale are barely scratched and every single aspect of the story is more left unexplored rather than surveyed to satisfactory needs. I could not shake the feeling that what could have been a captivating adventure becomes just a feeble endeavor because of the very tight space in which Nicolas Jarry has to develop a complete story.

Sadly, for me, neither the art of Gianluca Maconi works in favor of “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves”, most of the panels are unimpressive and there is little to be had out of the illustrations. Despite of a few of them being acceptable and showing promise, from my point of view most of them are rather schematically treated, with no panel being able to hold my gaze for longer than a couple of moments. I was left largely unimpressed by the final result, among the characters, settings and fighting scenes I could find only a few that I liked quite a bit, but I cannot honestly say that the art of “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves” is what I’d count among my preferences. Diogo Saïto’s coloring saves the situation a bit, it sets nicely the tone and atmosphere of the panels, but I am afraid it does too little to shake my general opinion of the comic book’s art.

Although part of a larger series and universe Nicolas Jarry and Gianluca Marconi’s comic book is independent from the first volume,“The Crystal of the Blue Elves”, as each new album of the Elves series is, but in comparison with that first entry I felt “The Honor of the Sylvan Elves” took a tumble for the worse. It is not a bad comic book, it provided me with a quick and fun reading, but no more than that and certainly without demanding another one.

Table of contents – “Terror Tales of Cornwall” edited by Paul Finch

TTs of CornwallOne of my favorite anthology series, “Terror Tales” edited by Paul Finch, hit a bump in the road when its publisher, Gray Friar Press, sadly had to close its doors. Fortunately the anthology quickly found a new home at Telos Publishing and now the tenth volume, “Terror Tales of Cornwall” is available for purchase. As is the case with the previous nine volumes of Paul Finch’s series of anthologies “Terror Tales of Cornwall” features short stories based not only geographically on its specific region but gravitating around the mythology, traditions, legends and history of the area. Also, the interspersed little snippets of local folklore are not missing either so I am very happy to see “Terror Tales” growing with yet another collection of short stories.

Cornwall, England’s most scenic county: windswept moors; rugged cliffs; and wild, foaming seas. But smugglers and wreckers once haunted its hidden coves, mermaid myths abound, pixie lore lingers, henges signal a pagan past, and fanged beasts stalk the ancient, overgrown lanes …

The serpent woman of Pengersick

The screaming demon of Land’s End

The nightmare masquerade at Padstow

The feathered horror of Mawnan

The terrible voice at St Agnes

The ritual slaughter at Crantock

The hoof-footed fetch of Bodmin Moor

And many more chilling tales by Mark Morris, Ray Cluley, Reggie Oliver, Sarah Singleton, Mark Samuels, Thana Niveau and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.

CONTENTS

“We Who Sing Beneath the Ground” by Mark Morris

Golden Days of Terror

“In the Light of St Ives” by Ray Cluley

Morgawr Rising

“Trouble at Botathan” by Reggie Oliver

From the Lady Downs

“‘Mebyon versus Suna’” by John Whitbourn

The Serpent of Pengersick

“The Unseen” by Paul Edwards

Finned Angels, Fish-Tailed Devils

“Dragon Path” by Jacqueline Simpson

Jamaica Inn

“The Old Traditions Are Best” by Paul Finch

Guardians of the Castle

“The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things” by Mark Valentine

The Hooper

“His Anger Was Kindled” by Kate Farrell

The Bodmin Fetch

“Four Windows and a Door” by DP Watt

Owlman

“Claws” by Steve Jordan

The Cursing Psalm

“A Beast by Any Other Name” by Adrian Cole

Of the Demon, Tregeagle

“Moon Blood-Red, Tide Turning” by Mark Samuels

Slaughter at Penryn

“The Memory of Stone” by Sarah Singleton

Queen of the Wind

“Shelter from the Storm” by Ian Hunter

The Voice in the Tunnels

“Losing Its Identity” by Thana Niveau

Review – “Moon Scars” by Ángel Luis Sucasas

Moon Scars“Moon Scars” by Ángel Luis Sucasas

Translated by James Womack

Published by Nevsky Books

Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher

There are countless worlds at my disposal through speculative fiction and there is a world around me waiting to be discovered. And when these two meet I wish to be able to explore the speculative works of writers of different nationalities, to see how their local influences leek into their writings. I am perfectly aware that aspects like translation, market and costs are very important to this process and make my wish a bit difficult to be granted. But I will not venture into this discussion here. Still, things are moving forward and there are publishers such Nevsky Books that make it possible to read in English authors such as the Spanish Ángel Luis Sucasas and books such as his short story collection “Moon Scars”.

“A Tale of the White Lady” – During a usual hunt Ivetta, the youngest member of a pack of three werewolves, wishes to adopt the small baby found within the hunted human group as the new member of the pack. And when finally Mikhail, the leader of the pack, accepts and transforms little Kolya, their life together is changed dramatically. The story is seen from the middle of the pack of werewolves and it approaches them not as the traditional monsters, although this side is not dismissed entirely, but as a family, both as a whole and individually through each member, with their personality, dreams, desires and flaws. The picture is completed by connecting this pack to an entire community of werewolves, spread worldwide, a link that adds elements of religion, folklore, traditions, rules and politics, without losing sight of the world of humans. And it is once again in the direct relation with our world where the table is turned, the humans look more like monstrous creatures than this peaceful, to a point, little pack of werewolves. It is a tale of love, betrayal and revenge, without clear good or bad characters, but with lively protagonists driven by strong emotions and facing their own personal tragedy.

“The Offering” – A toymaker, whose life was struck by recent tragedy, petitions to Ismina, the goddess of justice, in search of answers and pledges himself to the will of the gods. “The Offering” is a fantasy story and features a few of the traditional high-fantasy and grimdark characteristics, but the author boosts them with enough ingredients of his own making to render it originality. The end result is an outstanding and impressive world-building, especially since it is done in the restricted confines offered by the length of the short story. The setting and plot left me wishing for more stories set in the same environment, even more so since Ángel Luis Sucasas hits the high note from the beginning of the tale and hardly misses a bit.

“It is the day of the madmen. And the city of Taris is celebrating it in every street, park, square and alley. Parents are crying and moaning as their children drag them around on leashes like dogs, giving them harsh commands and kicking them in the ribs with sharp iron boots. The lord of the city, Indras, is wearing a clown’s rags and is entertaining Gulhag, the king of the beggars, and his court of the crippled and dumb. Women are dressed as men and men as women. A young elf is the most depraved participant in the palace orgies, and nobles offer up their daughters’ virtue to the imps’ eager and lustful members.”

“The Day I Refused an Empire” – Retired men, unwilling to undertake a rejuvenating process, go through the junk washed up on the shores of their place of living in search of materials from which to craft their trinkets. When the protagonist of the story discovers a woman with silver skin of the shore he ends up witnessing horrors and marvels alike. Humanity is not painted in a flattering image here, from the elders stranded on the brink of existence to everything sacrificed in the name of technological advancement there is little to be proud of in the future society described in this story.

“The world of volcanoes and lightning. Primordial soup. Cells dividing. The first creature to abandon the water. Exuberant jungles, and titans with scales and warm blood. Man, knowing for the first time who he is. History, wars and ruin and hope and glory. The conquest of the stars. The universe. And in parallel, the ones we have forgotten or exterminated. Ogres, imps, elves and fairies; naiads, nymphs, krakens and sirens. Dragged from their homes. Transformed into articles of enjoyment, of fun or sacrifice for man, the most cruel of all the beasts.”

A cross of sci-fi, fantasy and lovecraftian fiction “The Day I Refused an Empire” is also a thought provoking story on the choices one makes and the humankind’s relationship with the world and universe around it.

“Farewell” – At her sixteenth birthday Manika must leave Promisedland forever, but Tristan, her younger brother, has difficulties in accepting the situation, although it is one of the unbreakable rules set by the Architect for the inhabitants of this land. There is a new order in “Farewell”, new rules set into place, the world is reshaped and childhood and adulthood are inverted, while the chasm separating the two is wider and deeper. And all is due to the vision of the Architect, it is never clearly stated who he actually is but his identity is not important to the plot anyway. What the Architect didn’t manage to change are the emotions, happiness, sorrow, nostalgia and heartbreak have remained very much the same.

Ángel Luis Sucasas crafts worlds with unbelievable ease. There are only four short stories in “Moon Scars”, but there is an abundance of imaginings that spans far beyond its slim appearance. But plot and characters are not sacrificed on the altar of creativity, the stories are filled to the brim with emotions and conflict too, the story lines and the feelings of the protagonists are as important as the settings of the tales. “Moon Scars” is one of those volumes that make me fall in love with speculative fiction all over again.

Table of contents – “Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 4” edited by Helen Marshall & Michael Kelly

YBWF-4Undertow Publications has set upon itself the tremendous task of gathering some of the best weird fiction and bringing it into our attention through its published books. And for the past three years this brave independent press counted among its titles the anthology series “Year’s Best Weird Fiction”. There are various such yearly anthologies gathering short fiction of a particular genre or sub-genre on the market, but “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” stands out not only for the chosen subject, but also for the quality of its selections and by bringing different visions for each of its volumes. Because besides the work done by the series editor, Michael Kelly, each volume features a new guest editor, such as Laird Barron for the first, Kathe Koja for the second and Simon Strantzas for the third have been so far. The fourth “Year’s Best Weird Fiction”, coming out on October, is no different, this time Helen Marshall is the guest editor, features another excellent cover art, made by Alex Andreev, and by the looks of its table of contents it promises the same exciting quality of short fiction as the first three volumes. And since I am here I would also like to point out that same as the previous year Undertow Publications offers another subscription for those interested in its 2017 titles, “Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 7” edited by Michael Kelly, “The Dream Operator” by Mike O’Driscoll, “I Will Surround You” by Conrad Williams” and the already mentioned “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” edited by Helen Marshall & Michael Kelly. There is an offer for the paperback editions for 70$, one for the hardback editions for 110$ and one for the combo of the two for 160$, all shipping costs included in the prices. So, if you are interested in one of these subscriptions you can find all the details at the Undertow Publications website.

“I Was a Teenage Werewolf” by Dale Bailey (Nightmare Magazine #51)

“Breakdown” by Gary Budden (The Short Anthology: The Second Issue)

“The Signal Birds” by Octavia Cade (Liminal Stories #2)

“Breaking Water” by Indrapramit Das (Tor.com)

“The End of Hope Street” by Malcolm Devlin (Interzone #266)

“The Blameless” by Jeffrey Ford (A Natural History of Hell)

“Waxy” by Camilla Grudova (Granta Online)

“A Heavy Devotion” by Daisy Johnson (Fen)

“Red” by Katie Knoll (The Masters Review Online)

“In The Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro” by Usman T. Malik (The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu)

“Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare Magazine #40)

“Outtakes” by Irenosen Okojie (Speak, Gigantular)

“Beating the Bounds” by Aki Schilz (The Unreliable Guide To London)

“The Kings With No Hands” by Johanna Sinisalo, translated by J. Robert Tupasela (Finnish Weird 3)

“The Dancer on the Stairs” by Sarah Tolmie (Two Travelers)

 

2016 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees

sjackson-award

One of my favorite times of a year is when the Shirley Jackson Awards list of nominees comes out. Every list of nominees of the Shirley Jackson Awards, that celebrates “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic”, has broaden my reading horizon and pushed the limits of my comfort zone constantly. I dare say this year is no different. The winners will be announced on July, 16th, at Readercon 28.

NOVEL

“Foxlowe” by Eleanor Wasserberg (Fourth Estate-UK/Penguin Books-US)

“The Girls” by Emma Cline (Random House)

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout)

“Lily” by Michael Thomas Ford (Lethe)

“Mongrels” by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow)

“The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown)

NOVELLA

“The Ballad of Black Tom” by Victor LaValle (Tor.com)

“The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” by Kij Johnson (Tor.com)

“Maggots” by Nina Allan (Five Stories High)

“Muscadines” by S.P. Miskowski (Dunhams Manor)

“The Sadist’s Bible” by Nicole Cushing (01 Publishing)

“The Warren” by Brian Evenson (Tor.com)

NOVELETTE

“Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees” by Laird Barron (Autumn Cthulhu)

“Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare Magazine)

“Breaking Water” by Indrapramit Das (Tor.com)

“The Night Cyclist” by Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)

“Presence” by Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours)

“Waxy” by Camilla Grudova (Granta)

SHORT FICTION

“Animal Parts” by Irenosen Okojie (Speak, Gigantular)

“The Apartments” by Karen Heuler (Other Places)

“Postcards from Natalie” by Carrie Laben (The Dark)

“Red” by Katie Knoll (Masters Review)

“Things With Beards” by Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

“Almost Insentient, Almost Divine” by D.P. Watt (Undertow)

“Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn (Word Horde)

“Greener Pastures” by Michael Wehunt (Shock Totem)

“A Natural History of Hell” by Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer Press)

“We Show What We Have Learned” by Clare Beams (Lookout)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

“Autumn Cthulhu” edited by Mike Davis (Lovecraft eZine Press)

“The Madness of Dr. Caligari” edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Fedogan and Bremer)

“The Starlit Wood” edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Saga Press)

“Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories” edited by Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay (Exile Editions)

“An Unreliable Guide to London” edited by Kit Caless and Gary Budden (Influx Press)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!