Read More

Thanos | Badass of the Week

You address omnipotence. Tread carefully.”

A special edition of Badass of the Week by Ben Thompson

Going out the week of San Diego Comic-Con and telling a bunch of superhero aficionados that Thanos is badass is kind of like walking into a Star Trek convention and announcing that Vulcans have pointy ears. No shit, Professor X, why don’t you tell us something we didn’t already infer telepathically just by looking at a comic book panel depicting a giant, beady-eyed muscle-bound behemoth backhanding Captain America to the turn with one hand while simultaneously head-butting a structural tear in the fabric of the universe with his wrinkly purple forehead?

Read More
1984

Down in the Ghetto at the SF Café – Notes From New Sodom

“Don’t tell anybody, but science fiction no longer exists.”
Matthew Cheney, The Old Equations, Strange Horizons

Welcome to the SF Café, in the ghetto of Genre, in the city of Writing, in the Republic of Art.  We call it the SF Café because only the letters S and F survive, but you can still see the full name today, The Science Fiction Café and Bar, traced in the grime, outlined in the negative shadow of those clean spaces left where the letters have fallen away.  It may look a bit shabby from the outside and there’s surely some weird shit in the window that makes you wonder what the fuck is going on inside.  But let’s step through the door right now, and step through the decades too, to see it as it once was, the shining formica of the counter-top, the sleek silvery steel of the coffee machine and soda fountain, the bakelite and plastic of the trappings, the decor all bright white and brilliant red, shining, gleaming, with the Fifties promise of futurity.  This is the SF Café as it was in the Golden Age, when Old Man Campbell owned it.

Emphasis on the was.

Read More
gardens of the moon

Closing the Book on Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen – Review

I remember reading a book, the first book I’d ever review online, called Meditations on Middle on Earth, which was collection of essays from the who’s who cast of fantasy authors reflecting on The Lord of the Rings. When they read it, where they were, how it influenced them. Among them was Robin Hobb, who I also later interviewed, and she posed a question in her essay that was something to the effect of the thought of why even try (to write) something that has already been done at that level? I find myself, from the fan’s perspective, in a similar place. As a life long fan of epic fantasy, this guy, one Steven Erikson… he’s done it.

Read More

Escaping into Fiction – Sharon Shinn Guest Blog

When I was having an interesting time of it in college, I was seized with the notion that I was reading an incredibly long and detailed story about a woman named Sharon Shinn, and at some point I would reach the end of the book, look up, and find myself to be a wholly different person. (A friend of mine says this is an idea that would only occur to a writer.)

Read More
david lapham

The DEFIANT Lost History of David Lapham’s Mongrel

In the mid-’90s Jim Shooter, once the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and later a founder of  VALIANT comics created DEFIANT comics. Among those that went with him was David Lapham, an artist/writer who would go on to win Eisners for his independent work on his own Stray Bullets. Lapham would be the artist on the debut comic from DEFIANT, Warriors of Plasm, but before he did that, before anyone did anything at DEFIANT we could put in our hands and read, we got Mongrel.

We never saw him again.

Read More
steven erikson

Steven Erikson Interview – The True Gods of Malazan Shadow

Today I interview Steven Erikson who in my mind nothing less than writer who brought Sword & Sorcery elements into contemporary, even literary fiction and creating a landscape all his own. The author of my favorite series of all time (you can check out my thoughts upon completing The Malazan Book of the Fallen). Let’s do this!

Read More
hal duncan

The Scourge of Sci-Fi

Ordure and Bullshit

“Nine tenths of science fiction is crud. Of course, nine tenths of everything is crud.”
Theodore Sturgeon

In the uptown district of Literature and the midtown district of Mainstream, so the story goes, the high-brow and the mid-brow all turn their noses up when they glance downtown, in the direction of Genre. Fairy tales for children, they sneer. On the door of the Bistro de Critique there was for a good many years a sign that read, “No Genre allowed.” The nearest they ever got to a genre label is General Fiction — a term with an empty definition if ever there was one, catch-all for a host of idioms and idiosyncracies. No, genre fiction just isn’t de rigeur there, so the story goes. So, fuck em, we say. Fuck the mundanes of Mainstream, the elitists of Literature. We’re Genre and proud of it.

Read More
gareth edwards

Gareth Edwards Interview | Monsters

Gareth Edwards is not what you probably picture when you think of a special effects artist turned science fiction director:  he’s personable and energetic, as charming to look at as he is to listen to, and utterly enthusiastic about his new movie, Monsters.  If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a near-future in which a NASA probe brought back life from one of Jupiter’s moons, and the creatures have taken over half of Mexico.

Read More
deadpool

Deadpool – Badass of the Week

“Destiny doesn’t care that I’ve made sacrifices to get here.

That I’ve said my prayers and brushed after meals.

Destiny wants a garbage man… and I’m always it.

Bang bang.  I’m Deadpool.  You’re Dead.

A special edition of Badass of the Week  by Ben Thompson

Deadpool is a criminally deranged, psychopathic ninja mercenary with a mutant healing factor, a withering sarcastic wit, an encyclopedic array of pop culture references, and unfettered access to katanas, hand grenades and automatic weapons, which he uses to kill everyone ever.  He’s like Snake Eyes, Wolverine, and David Spade’s Hollywood Minute mashed into the body of an Olympic athlete, then combined with the impulse control of Charlie Manson – and the end result is that he’s so fucking awesome at pummeling people into meat juice that he somehow manages to be an effective assassin even though he sneaks around heavily-fortified military facilities in a fire-engine red jumpsuit.

Read More
sandman

In Which a Wake is Held – Sandman Meditations

Three years have passed. Not in The Sandman, but here between these meditations. Within only a few installments of finishing the central series, I couldn’t go on. I read chapter two of The Wake and could think of nothing to say. Characters from all the books were coming back, congregating, ready to pay respects. I wasn’t ready.

What has changed? Everything. Nothing. Years have passed. Can I think of something to say now? Perhaps. Is it worth saying? I don’t know. (But then, I never know.)

Read More
flash gordon

The Marriage(s) of Science Fiction & Fantasy – Notes From New Sodom

The Great Debate

“The question of whether a certain story of imagination is a fantasy or a science fiction work would depend upon the device the author uses to explain his projected or unreal world. If he uses the gimmick or device of saying: ‘This is a logical or probable assumption based upon known science, which is going to develop from known science or from investigations of areas not yet quite explored but suspected,’ then one could call it science fiction. But if he asks the reader to suspend his disbelief simply because of the fun of it, in other words, just to say: ‘Here is a fairy tale I’m going to tell you,’ then it is fantasy. It could actually be the same story.”
Sam J. Lundwall

Down in the ghetto of Genre, in the SF Café that is our literary salon, in this scene of zines and forums, conventions and clubs, there’s a Great Debate that kicks off every so often. The diversity of the clientele maps to a diversity of opinions — convictions, even — and few of these are as contentious as those addressing the differences or lack thereof between science fiction and fantasy. To be fair, the taxonomy of literary genres is a game that appeals to the geek in me as much as anyone, but the diversity we’re dealing with in the SF Café is obscured by the very word genre, its meaning muddled by a conflation of openly-defined aesthetic idioms with conventional forms that are closely-defined and marketing categories that are all but empty of definition.

Read More
jeff vandermeer

Jeff VanderMeer Interview – Before Annihilation, Ambergris

This week my guest is a multiple Word Fantasy Award winning author and editor of efforts that have become recent fixtures in fan favorite lists, writing a brand of fantastic fiction that the Guardian admits “Could well be creating one of the dominant literary forms of the 21 century”. From City of Saints and Madmen, to Veniss Underground, to his collection Secret Life and now his latest work Shriek: an afterword to a book that doesn’t exist, every journey undertaken has been one to a different place, even if at times occurring in the same location or a few steps from it.

Read More
new frontier

DC: THE NEW FRONTIER… Stripp’d

0. Looking Back in order to Move Forward

One of the more interesting developments in superhero comics has been the growing popularity of comics that take familiar characters and transplant them into unfamiliar historical contexts. Though this type of postmodern speculative exercise has been around in one form or another since the Silver Age, the current vogue has its roots in Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola’s Gotham by Gaslight (1989), an ‘elseworld’ that took Batman and reinvented him as a steampunk vigilante battling Jack the Ripper in a turn of the Century Gotham City. Other attempts at historical re-potting include Superman’s reinvention as a Soviet tyrant in Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son (2003) and Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 (2003), which transplanted the entire Marvel universe to Elizabethan England.

Read More
samuel delany

To the Water-Fountains – Notes from New Sodom

Was Sodom destroyed?
Aye, and Gomorrah to six miles around it.
The rivers beneath it boiled in the
street. The mountain vomited rock
on the orchards. And no one now may
live upon the place.
O my city! What city can I found? Where
now must I go to make a home?

Samuel R. Delany, Driftglass

I can’t tell you what age I was when I first read Samuel R. Delany’s “Aye, And Gomorrah,” in a tattered second-hand copy of his collection, Driftglass. I have only the most random snippets of memories associated with my teen reading — a vague awareness that the first SF book I read was I, ROBOT, that I caught the bug with more Asimov, became a hardened fan with Heinlein and PKD, and an avid collector with the series of Gollancz Classics released in the 1980s. I’m pretty sure that it was picking up Babel-17 and Nova as part of that series that turned me on to Delany. Well, OK. I say I’m pretty sure; I might just as easily have read one of his short stories first in one of the umpteen anthologies I took out of the local library. Truth be told, I have a shit memory, so I’m pretty sketchy on the details, have a tendency to answer any question that begins “Do you remember…?” with, “Was it more than a minute ago?”

Read More
batman

Batman | Badass of the Week

He’s the most dangerous man in the galaxy

Superman, telling some Martians about Batman

A special edition of Badass of the Week by Ben Thompson

Batman is a crime-fighting vigilante ninja detective who dresses up in bullet-proof armor, wears a gigantic black cape, hides in the darkest corners of the city, and then sneak-attack face-kicks the world’s most sadistic criminal douchebags until every felon in the tri-state area is passed out unconscious in a Gotham City Prison complaining about how they’ve got concussions so bad that their brains are leaking out their noses.  He’s one of comics’ most beloved, longest-running, and badass superheroes, an ultra-genius master of stealth and hand-to-hand combat, and a man so over-the-top hardcore that the mere mention of his name has been known to cause incontinence among the seedier members of human society.

Read More
ian r macleod

ALTERNATE LONDONS – Guest Blog By Ian R. MacLeod

This isn’t the best of times to be in England. People may take its continuing failures in sport with either blank resignation or even blanker disinterest, but there’s a indefinable sense that the nation is lagging behind neighbours it once used to dominate and, let’s face it, brutalise. Drawn up to bat in England’s favour recently on Radio 4’s Today programme was none other than Norman Tebbit, which rather emphasised the problem. The thuggish tendency, the out-of-date; this is what England now stands for. And at the nation’s heart, or at least its supposed heart — for the place lies a long way from that spot both geographically and in most people’s affections — lies its capital, London, a city whose recent monuments, such as Canary Wharf and the Dome, seem more like plugholes for investment and juicy targets for terrorism than true expressions of national pride. But there has long been a sense that the city isn’t quite the place it should be. Both Ken Livingston and Boris Johnson are far from first of their sort to get to high political office by promoting the lingering and ever-appealing idea that London, somehow and in some way, needs properly sorting out.

Read More
Charlie Huston

Caught Stealing with Joe Pitt – Charlie Huston Interview

Today we are pleased to present an interview with Charlie Huston. Coming off of a run on Marvel’s Moon Knight Charlie Huston is a writer who also has several novels to his credit, including being three books into the continuing vamp noir adventures of Joe Pitt, and The Hank Thompson trilogy. More recently, the Edgar nominated author, switched perspectives and wrote the stand-alone Shotgun Rule. The fourth book in the Joe Pitt Casebooks, Every Last Drop, is scheduled for a September 2008 release.

Read More
hal duncan

On Blood, Bad Boys and Bottoms – Notes from New Sodom

THE INNER INHUMANITY

I’ve got a theory, one that’s been brewing for a while really, ever since I first read Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire and Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls. It’s one that’s been partly informed by my… exposure to the Twilight phenomenon, to the general prevalence of the vampire trope these days. And after coming across one of those internet kerfuffles over a recent article in Esquire by Stephen Marche that made a rough stab at advancing a similar idea (and largely got shot down in flames) I thought it might be a good time to get my teeth into it, so to speak.

Read More
man booker

The Booker and the Bistro de Critique – Notes from New Sodom

Those Rocket Age Rhapsodies, Those Information Era Operas

“No SF novel ever won the Booker.”
Somebody, Somewhere, Somewhen

If’ you hang out long enough down in the ghetto of Genre, in the SF Café, eventually you’ll hear this axiom, or an axiom like it, muttered with a certain tone of harumph, a petulance in proportion to the wounded pride. Maybe you’ll say it yourself, sullen in your sense of injustice, disregard; I know I have. And whenever it’s spoken, that truism will likely spark a little to-and-fro on the exclusion of SF from the modern canon. There is, after all, an absenting in the absence, an active excision; the ghetto of Genre is a territory of the abject, an enclosure for the refused, that paraliterary pulp exiled from Literature — despite the fact that literature means only that which has been written — delimited as Genre — despite the fact that every work of literature sits within some genre or other.

Read More
george rr martin

No Thrones – A George R.R. Martin Interview

I have always enjoyed reading interviews of George R.R. Martin. Not because they offer informative illuminating aspects to his masterpiece (and yes they do exist in epic fantasy) series A Song of Ice and Fire, which due to its multiple perspectives and often times subtle narrative at once offers the chance of being exposed to provocative information as well as the opportunity to be strung along on multiple elaborate red herrings. He historically refrains from talking about specifics regarding plot and characters. Neither is it especially because of any tendency by Martin to be controversial in his statements. What I find oddly compelling is that when I read interviews of Martin, I get this image of a busy writer who would rather be doing anything else but talking about himself while he has a book to write, and damn it, there’s something admirable about that.

Read More
Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Back to the Future…with a Warhammer – Aaron Dembski-Bowden Guest Blog

The Appeal of Getting Your Ass Kicked

Back when I was a kid, in that era of willing vulnerability when we’re all sponging up ideas and inspiration to form our adult tastes, I saw something in the sci-fi genre that really stood out. In hindsight, I’m sort of proud of myself for noticing it, but maybe I’m giving my youthful self a little too much credit.

Read More
scott lynch

For Love of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch Interview

My guest today is a less than a week away from seeing his debut hit the shelves in the U. and a month away until it debuts in the U.S. The book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is the first installment in a planned seven book cycle titled The Gentlemen Bastards.

I first read the book in October of last year, reviewed it, and after reading it knew that Scott Lynch was somebody I needed to talk to.

Read More
blindsight

Review – Blindsight by Peter Watts

One of the things I find interesting about “hard” science fiction — by way of introducing Peter Watts’s Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight, the best example of the type that I have read in years — is that it is probably the most legitimate heir to the original remit of story, a remit that has existed since humans first gained sufficient consciousness and intelligence both to create stories and to need to create stories. Looking at the earliest stories we have record of, we can always see several purposes at work: stories existed to inform; to entertain; and, from the start, stories have existed at the level of myth to theorize, to suggest and test possibilities about the unknown elements of the world that we see and experience. What are those odd looking animals, where did they come from; where did we come from; what are those flashes of light in the darkness?

Read More
hal duncan

The Latest Teacup Tempest – Escapism & Elitism in Publishing

Elitism, escapism, world-building, blah blah blah. I’ve had my head down in terms of forums and blog-brouhahs. There’s a lot of, um, passion being thrown about, which is a good thing — it’s nice to know people give a fuck — but to be honest, I think a lot of the argument involves people talking at cross-purposes, people defending something that they think others are attacking, attacking something that they think others are defending, people saying that they’re not attacking / defending something in the way that other people think they are, but actually attacking / defending something else entirely, something which is worth attacking / defending… as opposed to what other people “seem to be” defending / attacking and so on, and on, and on, and on, and ever on, like the last one million pages of climbing up a fucking mountain at the end of Tolkien’s Lordy-Lordy-Massuh-Ah’s-Ah-Gonna-Carry-You-Massuh-Frodo of the Rings.

What?

Read More
Jia Zhangke

Paris in a Beijing Suburb: The Failure of Capitalism in The World of Jia Zhangke

Jia Zhangke is not only the best filmmaker to emerge from China’s sixth generation of filmmakers, but also widely regarded as one of the most important and vital directors working today by both his peers and the critics. The World (Shìjiè) is his fourth film and the first to be set outside of his native province of Shanxi, although a number of characters are from Shanxi and communicate with each other in the Shanxi dialect.

Read More
zoran zivkovic

At the Teashop | Zoran Živković Interview

This week our guest is World Fantasy Award winning author Dr. Zoran Živković. Publishers in the UK and USA have snapped up Živković’s stories, written in his native Serbian, in English translation at an ever-increasing rate as his literary star has risen. His work has been compared to that of Calvino and Borges and has received praise from such notable authors as Jeff Vandermeer and Michael Moorcock. His tightly written novels and collections, beginning with The Fourth Circle and continuing to such recent publications as Seven Touches of Music and Twelve Collections and The Teashop, combine modern characters with fantastic, sometimes absurd situations, that reward careful reading but do not demand a single interpretation. His fiction often weaves a connected whole out of many seemingly separate parts—which, come to think of it, is precisely what an interview attempts to do as well.

Read More
ian cameron esslemont

Malazan ICE – Ian Cameron Esslemont Interview

After a long and trying journey into the Azath I was finally able to track down one of the architects of the Malazan world that I find myself completely addicted to. When I first read Ian Cameron Esslemont’s first book Night of Knives, I must admit my reaction was a bit lukewarm, not unwelcome but not a piece that impacted me. After I added more pieces to the puzzle and studied the ones I had with more scrutiny I tackled the book again and it was one of those books that made me review it.

Read More
avatar

The Lost Airbender | Notes from New Sodom

Racebending and Lifestyle Theft

“If you go exploring in another culture only as a way of improving yourself and your work, that’s blatantly appropriative. Rose Fox, “A Whiff of Colonialism,” Publishers Weekly

Another day, another shitstorm in the SF Café. A couple of months back, some of you might recall, it was one Young Turk turned Old Guard with an ill-fated article on international SF, a Caesar of dubious pontification that met a Senate of aggravated responses. Others said all that has to be said about the article at the time, and it’s sorta blown over now, so I’m not going to add my dagger; but in a couple of the responses (or responses to responses,) as the entrails slipped to the ground, fingers were pointed and the dread words whispered: cultural appropriation. As in the quote above, the link was made.

Read More
big lebowski

Takin’ ‘er Easy for All Us Sinners: The World According to Jeffrey Lebowski

The Big Lebowski enjoys what is probably the largest cult following of all the cult-attracting films of Joel and Ethan Coen, and has pretty much since its release over a decade ago.  And “cult” has become more apropos a term since the advent of Dudeism, the official unofficial philosophy of Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski (dudeism.com). Dudeism teaches that we all need to just take it easy, man, and on a personal note, if there is one thing I’ve figured out about myself in the past few years, it’s that I am not perfectly calm here.  But I am learning to abide by adhering to a pretty strict Dude regimen.  Here’s some of the stuff I’ve figured out.