Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex

Sarah Kuhn

Sarah Kuhn

By Carl Slaughter: Betsy Wollheim has a gift for discovering new talent.

HEROINE COMPLEX

by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine COmplex cover

The first in a DAW series on Asian-American superheroines.

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right…or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

PRAISE

“Sarah Kuhn creates characters you want to befriend, worlds you want to live in, and situations you can’t begin to imagine. Heroine Complex is at once fiendishly snarky yet colossally big-hearted.”

—Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer and producer for Lost, creator of The Middleman

“Smart, sexy, and filled with beautifully fleshed-out/kick-ass women, Heroine Complex is the kind of read that sticks in your brain like a fanged cupcake…. I adored it.”

—Amber Benson, author of The Witches of Echo Park

“The superheroine we’ve been waiting for; the urban fantasy we deserve. Sarah Kuhn is the total package: comedy, tragedy, and sincerity. Grab your cape. We’re saving the city.”

—Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye series

“Every page of Sarah Kuhn’s novel delighted me immensely…. Kuhn’s writing is bouncy and engaging, and Evie is very clearly spun into a captivating character. I also have to give Kuhn props for balancing romance and humour and drama, and making me wish that Heroine Complex would go on just a little bit longer.”

Book Riot

“Onomatopoeias? Check. Snarkiness? Check. Kick-ass Asian-American superwomen saving San Francisco from demon-possessed cupcakes? Check and check, Kuhn’s Heroine Complex is a ridiculously fun read.”

RT Reviews (top pick)

“Witty…. Kuhn starts of the novel with vivacity and a tongue-in-cheek narration.”

Publishers Weekly

“A fresh take on a superheroine story. Full of wit and of course danger!… This seriously was an entertaining read. The character development was superb.”

Boundless Books

“Love the humor and wacky hijinks, along with character development…. This is everything I’ve ever wanted in a book!“

Dreaming of Cats

BIO

Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella “One Con Glory,” which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, comic book continuity, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Lou Anders’ Thrones and Bones Series

Lou Anders

Lou Anders

By Carl Slaughter: Lou Anders started as a Star Trek/Babylon 5 journalist. He wrote over 500 magazine articles. This was followed by the book, The Making of Star Trek: First Contact. Over a period of 10 years, he forged Pyr into one of the most distinguished speculative fiction publishers. Pyr was nominated for a horde of Hugo and Chesley nominations. Plus numerous John Campbell, Arthur Clarke, Philip Dick, British Science Fiction, World Fantasy, and Locus Award nominations.

Then he transitioned into fulltime writing with his Thrones and Bones middle grade series. Anders traveled to Norway to research Norse mythology. The series received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal. Goodreads reviews have been overwhelmingly 4 and 5 star. Frostborn came out in 2014, Nightborn came out in 2015, and Skyborn will be out in September. The series includes the Thrones and Bones board game.

INTERVIEW

Lou Anders interviewed by Carl Slaughter at Diabolical Plots (2013)

FROSTBORN

frostborn-3d

Fantasy fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series will embrace this first novel in an adventure-filled, Viking-inspired series by a debut author.

Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants.

Listeners will embark on a sweeping epic fantasy as they join Karn and Thianna on a voyage of discovery. Antics and hair-raising escapades abound in this fantasy adventure as the two forge a friendship and journey to unknown territory. Their plan: To save their families from harm.

Debut novelist Lou Anders has created a rich world of over twenty-five countries inhabited by Karn, Thianna, and an array of fantastical creatures, as well as the Thrones and Bones board game.

Bonus PDF: Includes a glossary, “Song of Helltroppr” lyrics, and rules for the Thrones and Bones board game.

NIGHTBORN

nightborn-3dFor fans of Lloyd Alexander and Brandon Mull comes Book 2 in the acclaimed Thrones and Bones fantasy-adventure trilogy that began with Frostborn.

Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves.

Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be.

Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly?

SKYBORN

SkybornFor fans of Lloyd Alexander and Brandon Mull comes the epic conclusion to the acclaimed Thrones and Bones fantasy-adventure trilogy that began with Frostborn.

Find the Horn. Free the City.

The chase continues for the legendary Horns of Osius. Thianna and Karn’s quest to retrieve the horns from those who wish to abuse their power takes them to Thica, an ancient land where two tyrant queens reign supreme and where years earlier Thianna’s mother was labeled a traitor. Soon the two heroes are caught up in an epic battle for control of the kingdom, one that puts their very lives at stake. The only way to overthrow the queens is to beat them at their own game. But with an entire empire against them, how can Karn and Thianna hope to compete—or better yet, survive?

SOCIAL MEDIA

Malcolm Cross, MilSF, and Piracy

By Carl Slaughter: Malcolm Cross does military science fiction. He also gets pirated.

His novel Extinction Biome: Invasion, co-authored with Anne Tibbets and published under the house name Addison Gunn), was released in five eBook novellas earlier in 2016, culminating in a collected print edition in June. His novel Dog Country came out in the spring. “Dangerous Jade” won the Ursa Major Award for best anthropomorphic short fiction.

“Pavlov’s House”, published by Strange Horizons, was pirated by the now notorious Hungarian sf magazine Galaktika. File 770 has been providing ongoing coverage of the Galaktika investigation.

Extinction Biome Invasion

Extinction Biome

The Earth was never ours…

Alex Miller trained for years in the Army, waiting for a war that never came. Now a corporate bodyguard and driver, he’s about to bear witness to the end of the human race.

An ancient ecology has reawakened, and like a Biblical plague it threatens to consume all life on Earth. Hordes of parasite-infected humans riot in the streets, as vast fungal blooms destroy our crops and fast-evolving horrors stalk our cities.

The last time this happened, T-Rex found itself on the menu. But mankind’s got more than teeth – it’s got guns. Miller and the men and women of COBALT, the Schaeffer-Yeager Corporation’s elite security team, are pressed into service to fight the onslaught, but they have no idea how cut-throat their company masters can be…

Praise for Extinction Biome:

“Ruthless and fast-paced, Extinction Biome is a planetary gut-punch.”

— Weston Ochse, award-winning author of Grunt Life and Seal Team 666

Dog Country cover

Dog Country

A crowdfunded civil war is Azerbaijan’s only hope against its murderous dictatorship. The war is Edane Estian’s only chance to find out if he’s more than what he was designed to be.

He’s a clone soldier, gengineered from a dog’s DNA and hardened by a brutal training regime. He’d be perfect for the job if an outraged society hadn’t intervened, freed him at age seven, and placed him in an adopted family.

Is he Edane? Cathy and Beth’s son, Janine’s boyfriend, valued member of his MilSim sports team? Or is he still White-Six, serial number CNR5-4853-W6, the untroubled killing machine?

By joining a war to protect the powerless, he hopes to become more than the sum of his parts.

Without White-Six, he’ll never survive this war. If that’s all he can be, he’ll never leave it.

Praise for Dog Country:

“Very much informed by 1980s cyberpunk fiction. The richly staccato narration and dialogue-heavy scenes carry the distinctive generic DNA of sexualised, late-modern (and postmodern) cityscapes fed through Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming and Jack Kerouac.”

— Dr. Robin Stoate (co-author, BFI Film Classics: Back to the Future)

“Cross shows an extremely distinctive voice, staying so much in the viewpoint character’s head that it borders on stream of consciousness. … there are few genuine stylists among furry authors and even fewer this good.”

“Opening with a powerful, visceral chapter, Dog Country is a novel that grips your imagination from the start and doesn’t let go. … Both in terms of the larger, fractured political situation as well as the immediate, intense military action, Cross has created a remarkable novel.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: http://www.sinisbeautiful.com/
Twitter: @foozzzball
Amazon Author Page: Malcolm-F.-Cross

Alex Shvartsman Anthology Update

Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman

By Carl Slaughter: Alex Shvartsman is a busy guy. He’s been editing so many anthologies, his writing for such magazines as Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge has been on hold.

He’s still cranking out the Unidentified Funny Objects series. UFO #5 goes to the press next month and will be released in October. He’ll start taking submissions for #6 in a few months and is working on Funny Science Fiction, Funny Fantasy, and Funny Horror.

The Table of Contents for UFO #5 comes out next week. After doing comedy for a while, now he’s delving into hard science with Humanity 2.0, also out in October.

And what’s that secret project he’s been working on?  Now we know – last week Shvartsman announced The Cackle of Cthulhu anthology:

I’ve been sitting on this news for months. It’s the secret project I was hinting at in my anthology update a few weeks ago. But now that the contract is signed, I can finally announce that I will be editing an anthology for Baen!

The Cackle of Cthulhu will be an anthology of Lovecraftian humor, half reprints and half original fiction.

Website: https://alexshvartsman.com/

 Interviewed by Carl Slaughter for SF Signal in March 2016: “Alex Shvartsman, Editor of the UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY OBJECTS Anthology Series, on Funny Fiction and His New Kickstarter Project”

Stay Crazy

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By Carl Slaughter: Erica Satfika’s Philip K. Dick-inspired debut novel is out next month. The art and jacket copy are ready. Preliminary reviews on Goodreads are mostly 5 star. I have to say, the plot is refreshingly different. Interesting cover too. What’s that the protagonist is holding in her hand as if it were a raygun? A blowerdryer!

Erica Satifka’s File 770 interview.

PRAISE

“Had Philip K. Dick lived through the riot grrrl and the collapse of the American industrial economy, Stay Crazy would be his memoir. Erica Satifka is a prophet.”

Nick Mamatas, author of Sensation and I Am Providence.

JACKET COPY

After a breakdown at college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’s crazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chicken nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well … pretty sure.

An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. When her coworkers start dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her though the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone Stay Crazy.

Cover by Nick Brokenshire

Stay Crazy is scheduled for release on August 16. Pre-order from Apex Book Company.

Stephen S. Power: How My Novel Saved Me From Drowning

Stephen S. Power

Stephen S. Power

By Stephen S. Power: When I researched what it was like to drown, I didn’t expect to one day use that research to save my own life.

In the first chapter of The Dragon Round, two sailors from the trading galley Comber are swept into the sea. Like most sailors during the ages of wooden ships, they can’t swim. Their captain, who can, dives in to save them, but I wanted to know what the sailors would undergo before he could reach them. All I remembered from my junior lifesaving class forty years ago was the possibility that a struggling swimmer might drown a rescuer by trying to use them as a flotation device.

Fortunately, Slate published a great article by Mario Vittone on just this topic, “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”. A person in aquatic distress might yell and thrash, and they might be able to assist in their rescue, but this stage doesn’t last long, and once they start to drown they can’t do any of this for several reasons. The one that struck me most was the first: “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.” While I could understand that our reverting to lizard brain instincts in time of peril, I couldn’t fathom not being able to call for help.

Flash forward to Fourth of July last year. My family took a deck boat out on Lake Minnetonka for some cruising, swimming and fishing. As a pre-teen I used to swim across a lake in the Catskills, and I’m in reasonably good shape, so I dove in without thinking, followed by my brother on an inner tube.

What I didn’t realize in my blitheness is that a 10-foot deep, third of a mile-wide, man-made Catskill lake is like a bathtub compared to the wild abyssal sea that is Lake Minnetonka. Nor did I figure that the wind would immediately blow the deck boat far away. I tried to swim for it, but I realized after only a dozen yards that there was no way I could fight the waves and the wind and reach the boat. Also, forty years is a lot of years since I could swim a lake. So I shouted for the boat to come to me, but it wouldn’t start. Then I called for my brother.

While I treaded water, I could feel my chest tightening up, and I was quickly tiring from moving all that lake. That’s when I understood why a drowning person can’t call out. Our lungs act as floatation devices. You don’t want to deflate them the slightest bit, even if you figure you can kick hard, stick your head out of the water and take a replenishing breath–because what if you can’t?

Fortunately, my brother made it to me, tiring himself out. He got me on the inner tube, which he then got on himself, and we concerned ourselves with a new problem: the integrity of the seals on the tube. Eventually the boat reached us, and the summer didn’t end.

What if I hadn’t known what would happen to me during this process? I imagine I wouldn’t have called in time, I would have gone silent and still, and after a few moments my brother would have been left wondering where I’d disappeared to. (Did I mention our mother was on the boat, watching this all play out? Yea.)

Perhaps The Dragon Round will help people too by showing them how to light a fire, prepare crab, row a galley and ride a dragon. I hope it doesn’t need to help them avoid trouble in the water, though, because I’d prefer to hope they don’t get in trouble in the first place.

Dragon-Round-cover-small-full COMP

Stephen S. Power
The Dragon Round
Simon & Schuster

The Dragon Round is the first of a series of at least three novels. I’m currently outlining the sequel, tentatively titled The Dragon Tower. This series, in fact, is the first of several, each of which will cover the major turning point events in human-dragon relations over the ages.

JACKET COPY

For fans of Scott Lynch and Naomi Novik comes a high fantasy epic that blends swashbuckling adventure with a dark tale of vengeance–when a ship captain is stranded on a deserted island by his mutinous crew, he finds a rare dragon egg that just might be the key to his salvation and his revenge.

He only wanted justice. Instead he got revenge.

Jeryon has been the captain of the Comber for over a decade. He knows the rules. He follows the rules. He likes the rules. But not everyone on his ship agrees. When a monstrous dragon attacks the Comber, his surviving crew, vengeful and battle-worn, decide to take the ship for themselves and give Jeryon and his self-righteous apothecary “the captain’s chance:” a small boat with no rudder, no sails, and nothing but the shirts on their backs to survive.

Marooned and fighting for their lives against the elements, Jeryon and his companion discover that the island they’ve landed on isn’t quite as deserted as they originally thought. They find a rare baby dragon that, if trained, just might be their ticket off the island. But as Jeryon and the dragon grow closer, he begins to realize that even if he makes it off the island, his life will never be the same again. In order for justice to be served, he’ll have to take it for himself.

SOCIAL MEDIA

[Article arranged by Carl Slaughter.]

Steven Brust and Skyler White’s The Incrementalists

“Watch Steven Brust. He’s good. He moves fast. He surprises you. Watching him untangle the diverse threads of intrigue, honor, character and mayhem from amid the gears of a world as intricately constructed as a Swiss watch is a rare pleasure.”
— Roger Zelazny

THE INCREMENTALISTS

TheIncrementalists

The Incrementalists — a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories.

Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste?and argued with her?for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules?not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

FIREWORKS IN THE RAIN

  • An original short story about some of the same characters published by Tor.com in 2013. Read the story here

THE SKILL OF OUR HANDS
sequel to The Incrementalists

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Skills of Our Hands

The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time.

They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time.

Now Phil, the Incrementalist whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has been shot dead. They’ll bring him back—but first they need to know what happened. Their investigation will lead down unexpected paths in contemporary Arizona, and bring them up against corruption in high and low places alike.

But the key may lay in one of Phil’s previous lives, in Kansas in 1859, and the fate of a man named John Brown.

Available for pre-order at Amazon and other retailers.

[Post by Carl Slaughter.]

More Changes at Tor

Tor/Forge Books followed Tuesday’s promotions with another round of staff announcements today.

Diana Gill has been named Executive Editor at Tor/Forge.

Tom Doherty, President and Publisher of Tor/Forge Books, said:

I am delighted to announce that Diana Gill will be joining us at Tor/Forge. She managed the US division of Harper Voyager, the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, for twelve years. At Voyager, she discovered such NY Times bestselling authors as Kim Harrison and Ian Douglas. In 2014 she moved to the Berkley Publishing Group. At Berkley’s Ace/Roc she acquired and edited such notable and bestselling authors as Charlaine Harris, Mark Lawrence, Steven Donaldson, and Zen Cho. She developed both established and emerging authors across platforms and formats, both digital and traditional. Diana has done some very fine work in our field. She’ll be a great addition to the Tor/Forge team.

And Publishers Lunch broke the news of 11 other changes:

Amy Sefton has also been named designer in the ad/promo department. Previously she was an in-house graphic designer and illustrator for BuzzFeed. In addition, the division announced a number of recent editorial promotions. At Tor, Liz Gorinsky and Miriam Weinberg are both promoted to senior editor; Jennifer Gunnels and Diana Pho move up to editor; Christopher Morgan is promoted to junior associate editor; and Melissa Singer moves up to manager, editorial operations. At Forge, Bess Cozby has been promoted to editor, while Elayne Becker moves up to junior associate editor. Finally, at Tor Teen, Whitney Ross has been promoted to senior editor, and Amy Stapp moves up to editor.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Swanwick Sets the Frame for His Mongolian Wizard Series

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

By Carl Slaughter: In an exclusive for File 770, Michael Swanwick provides plot details and author comments for his “Mongolian Wizard” series.  Tor has published 7 stories in the series and Swanwick plans 14 more.

Swanwick is on the verge of wrapping up his “Darger and Surplus” series.  He also has an anthology, Not So Much, Said the Cat, out in August.

First Story: “The Mongolian Wizard” by Michael Swanwick (Tor.com, 2012)

“Junior Lieutenant Franz-Karl Ritter is an officer in the Werewolf Corps, a variant of the K9 Corps, except that the men have wolves with which they share a mind link. Ritter is responsible for security at a conference of European wizards in Schloss Greiffenhorst on a snowy mountaintop in the Riphean Mountains. On the third day of the conclave, Sir Toby Willoughby-Quirke barrels into Ritter, knocking him flat, then politely introduces himself. Sir Toby soon sets up a military demonstration using a platoon of two-inch high toy soldiers, who march in formation and display their shooting abilities, then disappear into the walls of the castle, ostensibly to hunt down rats and mice. But the miniature soldiers aren’t what they seem to be, and neither is the boisterous Sir Toby.” –  Tadiana at GoodReads

Swanwick Comments: You should at least skim this story, because so many of the series’ ground rules are contained within it.

Second Story: “The Fire Gown” (Tor.com 2012)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded Poland. Ritter and Sir Toby are called to Buckingham Palace to investigate the spontaneous combustion of Queen Titania when she donned a gown woven from salamander’s hair – an act meant to incapacitate King Oberon at the onset of war. Ritter meets the dressmaker’s daughter, the (his words) Jewess Shulamith Rosenberg. Together, they discover that her father has been murdered, and that the saboteur has left behind a box containing thousands of of plague fleas. Ritter deliberately ignites a bolt of salamander cloth to destroy them, expecting to die. He survives, thanks in part to actions by his new wolf, Freki. Shulamith, however, dies. When he has recovered enough to return to his empty apartment, he brings with him a crayon portrait of her, hangs it on the wall, and bursts into tears.

Swanwick Comments: Ritter, though he does not realize it, is a proto-Nazi who has had the good fortune not to fall under evil influences. His idealization of Ms Rosenberg is the first suggestion that he may grow out of his limitations and also a clue that he is unknowingly seeking love. The entire series chronicles his struggle to not lose his soul.

Third Story: “The Day of the Kraken” (Tor.com 2012)

Set during the Phony War. Mudlarks – children who scrounge in the tidal mud for scrap metal – witnessed and reported a chest deliberately sunk in the Thames. It contained kraken eggs which, when hatched, would render the port unusable. Though this was recovered, the saboteurs kidnapped five children, all girls, and the locales of these crimes form an inverted pentagram, suggesting they mean to perform human sacrifice. (Though magic works in this series, demonism does not.) Evidence had been left behind suggesting that the crimes were committed by Catholics – the saboteurs’ intent, obviously, is to cause religious strife.

Ritter and Freki tracked the saboteurs to an unused priory, but were captured. Held captive with the little girls, Ritter calmed them down by telling stories about Freki and getting them to pretend they too were wolves. Then, though it was strictly illegal, he entered the children’s minds and “launched his small wolves,snarling and biting straight at the throats of the three startled saboteurs.”

Understandably, the girls’ parents are outraged at how they were rescued, and Sir Toby scolds Ritter. Ritter “accidentally,” leaves some pasties where mudlarks will steal them.

Swanwick Comments: There is usually banter between Ritter and Sir Toby, who finds his stuffiness humorous. From this story, for example:

“I have an excellent sense of humor,” Ritter said indignantly.

“Have you really? I must remember to have you tell a joke someday in order to test this hypothesis.”

However, Sir Toby also feels that Ritter is insufficiently ruthless, and is constantly trying to mold him into a man without conscience. He is simultaneously a humanizing and a dehumanizing influence on Ritter.

Fourth Story: “House of Dreams” (Tor.com, 2013)

Two vagrants travel across Germany in bleakest winter. One asks questions which the second evades. Until finally Ritter puts together inconsistencies in the situation and forcibly awakens himself from a dream. He has been captured and is undergoing dream therapy by two of the Mongolian Wizard’s alienists. Through induced illusions, bit by bit, they gain information from him. But so far not the two things they desire most: The purpose of his mission and the identity of his traveling companion. So, unexpectedly, they release Ritter. He walks for hour after hour until finally, on the edge of exhaustion, he arrives at the farmhouse where he was being held captive. He has been shown that there is no hope. Later, he is given a vision of himself, back in London, killing Sir Toby, and realizes this is their ultimate intent.

He has only one advantage: Freki is still out in the cold, and they think him a man and not a wolf. Ritter calls Freki to him and takes advantage of the distraction to kill his tormentors.

Then he continues on to his meeting-place where, after a long wait in an open place as described in the play, his contact appears. Extending his hand, Ritter says, “The wizard Godot, I presume?”

Swanwick Comments: Commonly, a new psychic power is introduced in each story. This story is so far unique in not introducing a new magical creature.

This has been the most popular story of the series, I believe.

Fifth Story: “The Night of the Salamander” (Tor.com, 2015)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded France. Fighting is fierce. On the eve of a battle, Ritter is at an aristocratic party when he is summoned by Sir Toby to the headquarters of Marechal de Camp Martel, who has been murdered and whose power is to instill absolute loyalty upon his troops and everyone he encounters. On impulse, he brings with him Lady Angelique de la Fontaine, a psychic surgeon with whom he had been flirting.

Working together, Ritter and Lady Angelique discover that, while indispensable to the French army, the Marechal was a loathsome human being, hated by the only three suspects: his valet, his aide, and his underage mistress. The murder, they find, was committed by his abused mistress who turned upon him. But before the others are released Ritter reveals that the valet is a creature of the Mongolian Wizard who will, if released, spread the news that the irresistible Marchal is dead. The aide is allowed to kill him and the battle the next morning will be fought by soldiers under the illusion that they are still led by a man who never loses.

Swanwick Comments: Many of the names in this series refer to classical fantasy. For example, de la Fontaine was the great French fantasist. In “The Phantom of the Maze,” Alice Hargreaves was the married name of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Freki is always an indispensable part of Ritter’s investigations, usually due to his superior range of senses, particularly smell, but occasionally as muscle. So there are in each story three indispensable characters: Ritter, Sir Toby, and Freki. Sir Toby’s part is usually small but always important.

Sixth Story: “The Pyramid of Krakow” (Tor.com, 2015)

A blind Swiss commercial traveler in chemicals comes to Krakow, accompanied by his seeing-eye wolf. Ritter, of course. He is shown the first pyramid of Krakow (more are to be built), atop which human sacrifices are made in great number in order to traumatize witnessing devotees into their potential powers. This is the source of the Mongolian Wizard’s seemingly endless supply of magicians. Ritter is identified as a spy but Kaska, a secretary, turns out to be a Polish freedom fighter. He sets fire to the Royal Palace and throws a young fool (exactly like his younger self but on the wrong side) to the enemy. Ultimately, he is saved from a witch-finder when Kaska feeds the man to the gargoyles.

When Sir Toby gets Ritter’s report, he receives it as moral permission to take actions he had previously considered too immoral to dangerous. The story ends on this unhappy premonition.

Swanwick Comments: Here I introduce the Holocaust into the mix. Ritter has been increasingly reluctant to play Sir Toby’s game. Now he sees here is no morally acceptable alternative. Yet he is aware of the evil he is agreeing to.

Though there is no romantic element to this story, Kaska will reappear. She and Angelique are to become Ritter’s two great loves. At least one of them will not survive the war.

The war begins as a conventional Napoleonic-era war and will conclude as something very like World War II.

Seventh Story: “The Phantom in the Maze” (Tor.com, 2015)

This is set in Bletchley Park, though the name never appears in the story. Young women work at scrying the future, drawing detailed diagrams of future weapons technology to be employed in the war. One of these women has been murdered at midnight at the center of the hedge maze on the day of her arrival. Since she knew no one there, Ritter is sent to discover if it is the work of saboteurs.

The murder turns out to be a crime of passion. The victim, Alice Hargreaves, arrived knowing she would have a passionate affair with the Director, a serial philanderer. She was killed by the Director’s current lover, who foresaw this affair. However, in the course of investigation strange things happen. A bird appears and disappears inside a closed room. Ritter has a discussion with the murdered woman. In a confrontation with the Director, the man is killed and then restored to life. The intensive alterations to the time frame have destabilized reality locally. It is entirely possible that over the long run it will destabilize reality throughout Europe.

Ritter promises to have the institute closed down. But the Director has foreseen this and produces a letter from Sir Toby saying it will not be. As Ritter leaves, a woman rides up on a horse:

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Alice Hargreaves.”

“I know who you are,” Ritter replied, “and I am afraid that there is nothing here for you.”

Swanwick Comments: This concludes the first third of the series (there should be 21 stories in all) and finishes establishing the ground rules. From this point on, the conflict will be a war pitting technology against magic.

Time, Mathematics, and the Mind of God at Clarke Center

clarke clock

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Time, Mathematics, and the Mind of God” on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 6 p.m. in UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium.

The panel discussion highlights personal perspectives from working scientists and a leading science-fiction author regarding what science has to say about some of our deepest cosmic mysteries. How did time begin in our universe? Why does mathematics work so well to describe the physical world? How does this all connect to the most ancient of theological questions?

Discussants will be:

  • Prof. Brian Keating (Physics, UC San Diego)
  • Dr. Andrew Friedman (Physics/Astronomy, MIT)
  • Dr. David Brin (Hugo and Nebula award-winning author)

The event is free and open to the public. Follow the link to reserve tickets.